JOURNEYING THROUGH GRIEF
Grief is an intense and complex journey for most. It is the normal reaction to the loss of a significant person in your life. This journey cannot be completed as quickly as most people think or wish it could. Grief is something that needs to be experienced, so that eventually you reach a place where you can remember the person who has died without feeling extreme or extended pain. You need the opportunity to develop a spiritual, not physical, relationship with the person who has died. Everyone grieves differently. There are no timetables. It helps to understand that you will respond to loss in your own way, and that usually, your feelings and reactions are normal.
1. Shock, Numbness and Disbelief
One of the first reactions is to shut down or go numb. This cushions you from overwhelming feelings during early grief. You may feel as if you are on automatic pilot during the first weeks. Even an expected death is a shock. It can feel unreal, like a nightmare or a terrible mistake.
You may be busy with funeral arrangements, visitors, paperwork and a variety of immediate tasks. Often you find yourself telling and re-telling, the same story of the illness, accident, pregnancy or the type of death. This repetition of painful memories helps flush out the strong emotions attached to them. In some ways it helps you to realize that the death has actually occurred.
How long coming out of the numbness depends on your individuality and the circumstances surrounding each death.
Thoughts that you might have:
Why did this happen?
Often, in life, there are no answers to why things happen. No one is to blame, you gave the best care that you could. Grief involves a searching for answers to tough questions. It is hard to understand why these things happen sometimes, isn't it?
It probably doesn't feel as if life has been fair to you, does it. Does it hurt when you see other people who still have their loved one?
Why don't the kids ever go to the cemetery? Don't they love their Dad?
Everyone grieves in their own way. Perhaps they feel closer to their Dad by doing other things. Maybe it is just too hard for them to do right now. They might change. Have you told them that it is important to you, or that you need help?
Every time I go to sort her clothes, it is like a blow to my stomach. I just close the bedroom door and walk away. Everyone says that I've got to get these things done soon.
Don't worry, one day you will know that you are ready to do these things and that the time is right. Try not to concentrate on it too much for now. Is sorting through these things something that you want to do on your own or would it be better for you to have someone with you? We're all different in what gives us comfort or makes us feel closer to our loved one. Some people wear the clothing of the deceased as they do their chores around the house, or wear the clothing as pajamas. The warmth and smell are comforting. Some people wear jewelry, or keep a favourite token in their pocket as their "˜connecting item' to the person they loved.
2. Understanding The Loss Is Real
As the numbness wears off, you begin to realize what the loss is going to mean to you. This explains why you may feel worse after a few months have gone by. Visitors have gone home, cards and calls have often stopped coming in so frequently, and most of the numbness has worn off. Well meaning family and friends, who do not understand the grief process, may pressure you to get back to your normal routines.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, "An odd by-product of my loss (his wife died) is that I'm aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet."
The reality of the loss starts to sink in. You may find yourself looking for your loved one to come back into your life again. This begins some of the hardest grieving.
Don't hesitate to say the name of the deceased. Often friends and family worry that mentioning the deceased will be upsetting. You probably welcome hearing your loved one's name mentioned and listening to, or telling stories about them.
You might take the opportunity to journal. Writing about feelings and events can help you to focus and identify emotions. Words can constructively channel fear and pain and create a record of progress. Journaling offers an alternative when you feel that other people are tired of hearing your stories over and over.
Thoughts and questions that you may wrestle with:
How can I go on?
· It is unimaginable how much I miss _______. I didn't know that the hole in my heart could be so big. There are no words for the pain. I feel so confused.
Where have all of my friends and family gone when I need them?
· You might become disappointed with your friends and family. Sometimes it seems as if there are new people who come out of the woodwork to offer compassion. Often people don't know what to do or say, even though they care. I feel so lonely? There are so many tasks that are overwhelming. It seems as if the rest of the world is carrying on as normal, while my heart is broken and my life has been ripped apart.
I don't like to go out in the evenings, because I hate coming home to an empty house.
· It makes me feel very lonely, when there is no one who calls out, 'hello' to me. I know that it won't take away the empty feeling, but there are a few practical things that you might try: Do you make sure that you leave some lights on and, perhaps, the T.V. or radio? Maybe the person who dropped you off could come in with you or, if you drove yourself, you could tell your host or hostess that you'll call them when you arrive in the house safely. Right now, the pain of your loss might seem unbearable. But, even knowing this, wouldn't you have chosen to have this person in your life?
Henri Nouwen describes it this way:
" Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we love most cause us not only great joy, but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. The pain of leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking."
3. Experience the Pain of Grief
Grief needs to be experienced in all its forms. There are no shortcuts through the pain of loss. You can try to "snuff down" feelings and delay grieving, but it will not diminish until you go through it by experiencing it fully. Living in a culture where people often equate pain with weakness, it is important that you feel you have permission to allow your pain its natural course. Grief is an intense journey.
Comments you might find yourself making:
I am tired all of the time. I have no motivation.
I feel as if I can't control my own emotions. I cry at the most ridiculous things.
I always feel sick. It's like I have the flu/cold every single day.
I feel like the whole thing is a bad movie.
I plan things but they only take up a bit of time. The day is so long.
Just when I was having a good day, I saw his favorite coffee mug
I should have done more for him/her.
If I'd only known"¦ I wish"¦
I can't finish a book. I read the same paragraph over and over.
What should I do with my wedding ring?
I've bought supplies, but I never get at doing the project.
I ran to the door when it opened, then burst into tears. It wasn't him/her.
Why am I not happy for friends that have good things happen? Am I jealous?
I hate eating alone.
It feels as if a part of me has died too.
I am too frightened to fall asleep.
Every time a piece of mail comes addressed to him/her, I cry.
When I hurt unbearably, it's like he/she is there, watching over me.
I'm still unable to go to the park we used to enjoy.
I sit at "˜our' table in the coffee shop every single day.
Maybe I didn't pray enough.
I'm not sure if I believe in a God who let him/her die.
I know that we will be together again.
I had a beautiful dream. We were together, laughing. It hurt when I woke up.
I feel like I'm going crazy.
NORMAL GRIEF REACTIONS CAN INCLUDE
Emotions: Sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, guilt, inadequacy, overwhelmed, hurt, relief, unpredictability, loneliness, out of control, feel as if you are going crazy, and abandoned.
You need to know that tears are not a sign of weakness or being out of control. It can be a normal response to feel anger, even towards the deceased. Often it is caused by a sense of being abandoned. Exercise can release a surprising amount of tension, anger and frustration.
In a presentation series on anger, Bill Hybel's of Willow Creek Community gave a visual example of how we deal with our emotions. He said: "Picture that your heart is a container. When it is filled with joy or happiness, we have very few problems expressing those emotions. The contents of the container spill out easily through or laughter, smiles, singing, whistling, skipping, etc.
However, when this container is filled with hurt or anger, the process isn't so easy. Some of us let these negative emotions build up inside until the container is so overfilled that it just "˜explodes'. This gives relief to the person and empties the container, but it usually creates a long list of painful consequences.
Often, the "˜explosion' includes angry or sarcastic words that hurt others and are destructive to relationships. The "˜explosion' can also include poorly thought-out actions or decisions that cause upset or are impossible to reverse.
Exploding is not a healthy way to deal with emotions!
Some of us, for whatever reason, don't release any of these negative emotions from the container. This eventually causes the container to develop cracks. These cracks allow the "˜poison' or negative emotions to seep into our entire body and mind. This "˜poison' can cause us to be bitter, mean-spirited, insecure, guilt-ridden, a chronic complainer, ashamed, a grudge-holder, or many other harmful traits.
Turning inward is also not a healthy way to deal with emotions! We need to find healthy ways to release our heart of its negative emotions."
Talking, crying, praying, physical activity, and journaling are just some of the healthy ways of letting out some of your pain without hurting yourself or others.
Physical: Lack of energy, tightness in chest or throat, hollowness in stomach, headaches, dizziness, weakened immune system, skin problems, intestinal problems, more accident prone, nausea, over-sensitivity to stimuli and noise, breathlessness, feeling short of breath, weakness of muscles, dry mouth, or "˜mimic' symptoms of the cause of their loved one's death, exhaustion, and lack of intimacy and physical touch.
All physical symptoms need to be checked by your physician, but please know that your "˜grief pain' might be getting expressed through physical pain. It is important to practice healthy living styles and maintain good physical care. Try to drink plenty of fluids because, due to excessive crying, they can become dehydrated.
Cognitions: Disbelief, confusion, preoccupation, sense of presence, hard to concentrate, memory loss, time is out of whack (a minute seems like an hour, and an hour like a day), hallucinations, disorganization, inability to complete a task, lack of initiative, a shift in perception (other people may begin to resemble the person who died), unreal sensations (hearing the garage door, front door open, or the footsteps of the person who died entering the house).
You need to know that you are not "˜going crazy.' The above are all normal grief reactions and are likely not permanent. While experiencing memory loss, it is sometimes helpful if you take a "˜mental snapshot' of what they have done. An example of this would be turning off the burner of a stove, and you take a "˜snap' of the knob in the off position. If you are worried that you have forgotten something, that image can be recalled and will reassure you.
Behaviours: Change in eating habits, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances ( problems getting to sleep, waking up in the night, or desire to oversleep), absent mindedness, dreams of the deceased, sighing, restless over-activity, crying, visiting places (or avoidance of) and carrying objects that remind the survivor of the deceased.
Changes in eating habits are very common. Eating becomes a lonely experience. Maybe it was a social time for you to talk to your loved one. Some suggestions are to change where you eat or try not to worry about having large cooked meals as long as you get proper nutrition. People often use food as "˜comfort' or the very opposite, and become too worried to eat at all.
Remember that most of these behaviors are normal to the grieving process. It is when these behaviors interfere with your daily life that you need to consider reaching out for help.
It is also not unusual for you to change where you sleep (on the couch), to hold onto a pillow while you sleep, or to sleep on the other person's side of the bed.
For those experiencing anxiety about being in a home alone, it can be advisable to have a security system installed or a lifeline arranged. Surprisingly, just by opening the door and stepping outside and realizing that you are in a safe neighbourhood (if you are), or by turning on the lights, you can feel comforted and more secure.
You might find that you need some type of medication to get to sleep or to remain asleep. This should be discussed with your physician.
Spiritual: rejection of faith, anger towards God, disappointment with religious network, abandonment of hope, hard to continue attending a church service because it triggers public crying, yearning and a restless searching, and no meaning in everyday experiences.
It is okay to be angry with God. Grief has been described as the "˜dark night of the soul.' Although you may wonder how you will ever go on, as you continue to go through your grief journey you will realize that life will hold meaning again.
Society has changed greatly in the last decade. Fewer and fewer people attend church on a regular basis. Only about 22% of Canadians currently attend a main line church. These percentages are decreasing rapidly as our older generation begins to experience more deaths and our younger generation is not brought up on the church routine.
In this day and age, there is a great variance in everyone's faith system and spirituality. It is important to realize what role your faith system or spirituality played in your life before the death.
If you are affiliated with a specific church or religion, it is quite possible that you are receiving tremendous comfort from both your faith and your network. You might feel as if you don't know what you would do without your belief system or your church. This will be an important part of your grief journey.
For those of you who do not have a traditional faith or organized church, it is important to discover your personal sense of spirituality. Spirituality is such an intimate thing. It is the essence of a person's soul. Perhaps that is why it is so often very difficult to express in words. It might be that you express it through your hobbies (music, reading, gardening, the arts, building cars, work, etc.), through physical means (golf, running, skiing, swimming, etc.), or through emotions and a sense of meaning (love for family, helping within society, etc.).
Another thing that is hard to explain is when you "˜sense' the presence of your loved one. It is most commonly felt by a sensation of light, a dream, an act of nature, an unexplainable event, a feeling of being protected (especially at times when you feel desperate), or a warmth. This is all part of developing a spiritual relationship with your loved one, rather than the earthly one that you have known.
You might feel that your loved one will continue on through their own actions, their achievements, or their family and relationships. Some people have a more naturalistic belief that it is through their remains (or cremains) that a person contributes to the life cycle.
It is probably safe to say, many people believe in an afterlife. Their definition of it may vary or be expressed differently. The following story discovered by author Doug Manning, is one way of describing what people feel may happen at the time of death.
The Parable of the Twins
Once upon a time, twin boys were conceived in the same womb. Weeks passed and the twins developed. As their awareness grew, they laughed for joy: "Isn't it great that we were conceived? Isn't it great to be alive?"
Together the twins explored their world. When they found their mother's cord that gave them life, they sang for joy: "How great is our mother's love! She shares her own life with us!"
As weeks stretched into months, the twins noticed how much each was changing. "What
does it mean?" asked the one. "It means that our stay in this world is drawing to an end," said the other one. "I want to stay here always." "We have no choice," said the other.
"But maybe there is life after birth!" "But how can there be?" responded the one. "We will shed our life cord and how is life possible without it? Besides, we have seen evidence that others were here before us, and none of them have returned to tell us that there is life after birth. No, this is the end."
And so the one fell into deep despair, saying, "If conception ends in birth, what is the purpose of life in the womb? It's meaningless!" Maybe there is no mother after all?"
"But there has to be," protested the other. "How else did we get here? How do we remain alive?"
"Have you ever seen our mother?" said the one. "Maybe she lives only in our minds. Maybe we made her up because the idea made us feel good?"
And so the last days in the womb were filled with deep questioning and fear. Finally the moment of birth arrived. When the twins had passed from their world, they opened their eyes and cried for joy. For what they saw exceeded their fondest dreams.
Even though you probably want your loved one back in person, a sense of spirituality or faith might comfort you with the thoughts of looking forward to "˜seeing' your loved one again after your own death. Here is a poetic example of such a reunion.
One day I was standing on the shore, one of a group of villagers, fishermen and tourists enjoying the sunshine. We watched a ship spread her white sails to the morning breezes and sail out of the harbour to the ocean and beyond.
We watched until she was only a white cloud where the sea and the sky come together. Then someone at my side spoke, "There, she's gone." And I said to myself, "Gone where?" Gone from my sight, that's all.
On the huge span of the ocean she moves with majesty, white sails open to every breezeand wind shift. Her diminished size is only in me, not in her. And just as someone beside me said, "She's gone," on the opposite shore are other eyes watching her coming and shouting joyfully, "Here she comes." And I thought to myself, that's what it's like to die. Gone from this shore, but on the other shore, loved ones waiting, crying, "Here she comes!"
Religious clichÃ©s seldom provide comfort and can often be hurtful. As well, they "˜set God up' for misdirected or displaced anger and a great deal of disappointment in what God is. Again, it is good to remember that most people mean well, when they say these things to you.
It is usually not comforting to hear people say:
"˜God never gives you more than you can handle.'
"˜God took your child home because He loved him so much.'
"˜God is trying to teach you something.'
"˜Meditate on the blessings you still enjoy.'
"˜Are you a fair-weather believer? You should feel privileged, not bitter, about your opportunity to lean on Him in faith.'
"˜God will turn this into something good, if you'll just let Him.'
"˜Now you have an angel in Heaven.'
"˜Your faith wasn't strong enough to overcome this one.'
"˜God knows what is best for each of us.'
4. Identify Changes: Begin New Roles
You will continue to work through the many tasks of learning to live with your loss. Losses tear apart the fabric of the routines around which your lives were structured. You need to identify how your environment has changed and then begin to develop new roles, routines, and skills in response to those changes. Your responsibilities may seem to have doubled overnight. Changes elsewhere in your life need to be minimized.
Difficult periods will crop up sometimes with no obvious trigger. It is important that you understand that these difficult periods are normal, rather than a set back or a sign of lack of progress.
While adapting to new roles and responsibilities, you might find yourself challenged with decision making. Hopefully you have someone to talk through your concerns with and who will be a non-opinionated sounding board for you. Often, as you hear yourself openly discuss your thoughts, you realize what needs to be done. If you do not have someone you feel safe talking with, perhaps writing down your concerns could be helpful. By seeing the choices available to you, it might make it easier to make a decision.
While you are grieving, it is important to be gentle and patient with yourself as you begin to establish a new identity and lifestyle.
As you are beginning to establish new roles you may resonate with the following description:
Paul Tournier, in A Place for You, describes the experience of being in between -- between the time we leave home and arrive at our destination, between the time we leave adolescence and arrive at adulthood, and between the time we leave doubt and arrive at faith. It is like the time when a trapeze artist lets go of the bars and hangs in midair, ready to catch another support. It can be a time of fear, of expectation, of sorrow, of uncertainty, or of excitement.
More thoughts and questions that you might have:
What should I do?
It is overwhelming to be faced with so many issues. Is there some way that you could make a list of the most important ones, and work at it from there? What would ______ have advised you to do?
Why am I getting worse?
Often grief feels like two steps forward, and one step back. Grief used to be described as a rollercoaster ride. Your emotions are so unpredictable from day to day, even from moment to moment.
The house is just falling apart. Everyday something else breaks!
It must be very frustrating for you. It is hard to take care of a place all by yourself. I'm sure it makes you miss ________ even more. Often we don't realize just how much another person does. Are there ways that we could work at finding someone to help?
She/he always did the banking. I feel so inadequate.
There are so many things that need your attention. It must be frustrating to try and learn so much, so quickly. Is there anyone you trust, that could teach you?
The yard is a mess. He/she always took care of that.
Just looking at it, must be a reminder that he/she has died. Are you able to just let it go for this season? Do you worry about what others might think? Are you trying to maintain it for him/ her?
I feel awkward when I go out with friends/family. He/she was always the extrovert, the one who joked around.
Some changes are hard, aren't they? I'm sure that everyone misses his/her fun loving side. People are probably just glad that you feel comfortable to be with them. They aren't expecting you to change who you are. It can make you feel self-conscious though, can't it?
The kids are treating me like a kid. It's true role reversal. I know they care, but it is driving me crazy. Ever time I go out they leave several messages and even come over to see if I'm okay.
It must be such a fine line for everyone in your family to adapt to the new situation. They are undoubtedly worried about you, and want to show you that they care. From your perspective, it sounds as if they are overdoing it a bit! Have you tried to tell them how you feel? Would it work to explain that you are struggling with creating your own sense of independence, that you appreciate their concerns, and that you know you can call anytime you need them.
Change, at the best of times, represents challenges to most people. When it includes the pain and confusion of loss, it is magnified. The article, "Welcome to Holland", is one that you might relate to. It is written by a woman, Emily Pearl Kingsley, who was trying to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability. There are many similarities to the grief journey.
"When you are going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans: the Coliseum, Michelangelo's "˜David', and the gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!", you say. "What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. You must learn a whole new language.
And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, and Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, "Yes, that's where I was supposed to be. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.
5. Recognition Of Special Days
Personal anniversaries (birthdays, wedding anniversaries, school graduations, etc.) and public holidays present additional challenges. Although the first year seems to be the most challenging, subsequent years can sometimes be even more painful. Medical anniversaries, such as the day of the diagnosis and the day someone was hospitalized, can also bring up memories.
The reactions to these anniversary dates and special holidays may begin months, days or weeks before the actual date. You might find yourself reliving those last difficult days. It can seem as if it was years ago and, somehow, it can also seem as if it was yesterday.
Even if you have been doing very well toward the end of the first year, you may be surprised at how intensely the one-year anniversary affects you. Usually you wish that others would offer additional acknowledgment and support during these times.
Concerns you might have:
I want to honour my loved one but don't know what to do?
You should feel free to acknowledge them in whatever way gives you comfort. You could make a donation to an organization, write them a letter/buy a card and take it to the place of their remains, plant a tree, put a quote in the newspaper, have a meal with close friends, release balloons, play music, or do whatever gives you meaning.
We always went to her/his house for birthdays. I can't manage to have everyone here.
How does the rest of your family/ friends feel? I'm sure that everyone is missing the tradition. Is there some way that you can still get together, but share the work? Why not go out this year instead of going to someone's home? People will understand that you aren't up to it this year.
I just wish that everyone would leave me alone on my birthday. I'm not in the mood to celebrate.
It must be a very sad time for you. I would imagine that it is unpredictable how you will feel on that day. I guess that people are just trying to show you that they care.
SAY "YES" TO LIFE AGAIN
Hopefully you will come to the point where you choose to say "˜yes' to life again. Grieving is terribly hard, exhausting work and initially demands much of your energy. When enough healing has occurred, you will no longer focus as much of your energy on your loss. You will find renewed energy to invest in the life ahead of you.
It often takes at least two years to start feeling like you have established workable new routines and a new identity of your own. You come to understand that it is possible for you to achieve a happy full life again, though it will be different from their life before your loved one died.
If you find yourself sometimes struggling during the second and third years of grief, this is not unusual. Although the intense pain of grief is gone, there is often a feeling of apathy or lack of meaning in life. This is normal, and eventually, life should begin to have a sense of wholeness and joy again.
"What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
More thoughts and feelings expressed:
I feel so guilty when I am happy.
What would ____ have wanted more than anything else in the world for you? You deserve to have as much joy as you can in your life. I hope that you aren't concerned with what others think. Being happy doesn't mean that you didn't love him/her.
I feel like such a different person than I used to be. I feel stronger.
You have made a lot of changes and accomplished a lot. You should be proud ofwhat you have done.
When will I get over this? When will I get better?
We never really "˜get over' a person. We learn to live without them in our daily lives, but keep them in our hearts forever. There will probably always be things or times that remind you of them. Would you want it any other way?
There is nothing that I wouldn't give to have him/her back, but I have certainly learned the value of relationships.
Having a person you love die, is a high price to pay in order to realize the value of life. There is a term called, the"˜Gifts of Grief'. The "˜Gifts of Grief' are things that you learn about, or get a deeper awareness of, during their grief journey. Some of these include: an increased appreciation for specific friends, family members and strangers who walked with you, a deeper or renewed faith, a sense of pride and independence, confidence in yourself, new hobbies, or changed attitudes towards others.
C. S. Lewis described these mixed emotions well by saying, "Most of us yearn to dance with wisdom and insight, but few of us have a comparable appetite for the pain which produces them."
The book, "When Things Get Back To Normal," is one woman's journal of the first year after her husband's sudden death. At the eleven month mark, she noted, "The foliage is so beautiful this year. The reds are redder and the yellows yellowier than I can ever remember them being. It's like looking at an artist's interpretation of fall. I am grateful I can once again see in colour, not just the black and grey that formed my palette in the early weeks after you died."
Although the time of creating a new life continues to be painful, there is a growing gratitude of being able to have had the person in their life, less pre-occupation with the actual death, and more memories of happier times.
"What a sad commentary it would be if when our lives are touched by death there was no pain or sense of loss. Grief comes to us because we cared and a meaningful relationship as we knew it has come to an end.
To grieve, simply means that we have loved and been loved. When we stop and consider how much poorer our lives would be had this relationship never existed, in the midst of our grief we can give thanks."
After the death of her son, Susan Shibley Abbott wrote a small book titled, "Lessons".
The following is a short series of quotes from her book. They are an excellent, heart-felt description of the entire grief journey.
"Two and a half years, thirty months, almost a thousand days, since we lost our son to cancer.
It has been a time of blinding pain and complete despair, of evolution and of revolution, of wanting, of wishing, of wondering, of wandering. It has seen me screaming and sobbing, pensive and reflective, frightened and unsure, confused and lost.
The emotions come piled one upon another until I'm reeling dizzily, trying desperately to find stability and normalcy, those elusive gifts of life I took for granted for so long. Everything is changed, different, not right, nor normal, but alien and unreal. It is real. It doesn't vanish like a bad dream when I wake up in the morning. It's there. It's tangible. It's a nightmare, continuous and ever present.
It is unjust, unfair, undeserved and incomprehensible. But it is real, so very real.
It's been a time of re-examination of the very roots of existence and the very basics of belief.
I have learned that I am much stronger than I thought, that I can survive against the most devastating blow a person can sustain and, though surviving is not the same as living, it is more than I expected.
I have withstood a living hell, I have walked through fire, I have endured that which is beyond endurance and I have kept on going.
And though sometimes one step forward means two steps backward, I know I will keep on going.
I have learned that somehow time goes on, people go on, and as much as I want to go back, it is impossible.
I have learned that not everyone can handle my pain. There are those that would rather avoid me than deal with me. Perhaps it isn't that they are mean or uncaring, but only scared and unsure.
But I have also found a few who are willing to listen and who are not repelled by my painful meanderings through the unchartered seas of grief. These few are like precious gems to be treasured forever."
"I have learned that I can hold on to him in my own way, that letting go is not imperative and holding on is not unhealthy. I don't have to cut him from my life. I just have to realize that he is with me in a different way.
There is not a day that goes by that he is not in our thoughts and not a moment that he is not in our hearts.
I have learned that I am not alone. At the beginning, I felt that no one could possibly know what I was feeling. I realize now that there are others who have faced the
indescribable. I feel a bond of shared sorrow with them"" a bond grounded in pain but strengthened by compassions and understanding.
I have learned that I have so much to learn. I must discover who I am now and who I will become. I need to find out my limitations and my abilities.
Maybe this is one of the most difficult of all lessons to master: the cold, hard fact that my son is gone and I will never know the reason, the why, of his death.
I have learned that each day is different because each day I am different. Just because one day seems to go okay, doesn't meant the next day will be the same. The days sometimes run together in one long, seemingly endless string of pain, frustration, and sadness. But I try to get through these times by taking them one day, or even one minute, at a time. This is the only way I can cope, the only way I can survive.
I have learned not to listen to others' prescriptions for my grief. There are certain situations that I cannot handle, and I should not be made to feel guilty for my inadequacy. I am inadequate, and it's a fact I'm not ashamed of.
I have learned not to feel humiliated for seeking outside help. I am not afraid of admitting that dealing with his death is too much for me. It is too overwhelming, too debilitating for me to wade through alone.
I have learned that the memories will never die. The mind does not forget that which is engraved upon it, carved not only by the fingers of pain, suffering, and loss, but also by those of courage, faith and love.
I have learned that I cannot rush through grief. The process is slow, tedious, and all consuming.
At my weakest point, I know I must continue. I must persevere. Very simply, each day I try to try.
I have learned that reaching out to others is a way toward healing. I have learned that their deepest caring pours forth when I allow them in -- when I let them see my ragged edges and my bleeding heart. The truth makes one vulnerable and, for some reason, we hide behind that false face of well--being and wholeness. But eventually that face begins to crack and crumble and it's then that we learn we are not alone. It's then that we truly begin to heal.
For where there is love, there is hope. And when I have once again found hope, then victory will be ours, mine and my son's. For the renewal of hope is the salvation from despair. And this, I have learned, is perhaps the most important lessons of all."
The title of many of the articles we produce, or presentations that are offered through Morgan Funeral Home and Morse & Son Funeral Home is: The Hurt, The Hope, The Healing towards Health.
No matter what phase of your, or someone who you care about, grief journey you find yourself in, I hope that these pages have offered you a sense of hope that there can be a healthy life filled with meaning.
Again? I invite you to contact me at Morgan Funeral Home:
905 356 3550 or
toll free: 1 877 905 356 3550
or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marny Atkinson, Continuing & Community Care