When we lose a loved one, the pain felt is very personal and unique. No two people grieve in the same way or for the same reasons. Grief is our response to our loss of a relationship with someone who had died. Parents experience different relationships with the same child, siblings with the same parent, and friends with friends. Because of these differences, grieving will appear in separate, individual ways for each person.
There are no time limits on grief. It lasts as long as it lasts. Unless we process our grief, it will reside within us and continue to impact our lives and ability to move forward. Grieving requires a lot of energy, both physical and emotional, especially during the first several months after the loss. During this time, we are embraced by shock, numbness and disbelief. We are blessedly protected by our mind’s inability to take it in all at once. After a while, we begin to regain focus and start to absorb the full reality of what has happened. Then, begins the journey of discovery…Who am I now? What have I lost? What do I have left? This process includes physical effects as well as those of the spirit and the heart. It is closely involved with the dynamics of our relationship with the deceased, the issues which were left unresolved, the “if only,” “I wish I had,” other regrets or feelings of guilt, and even anger. These feelings and longings will come and go like waves until we begin to address them through acceptance and forgiveness, freeing ourselves to begin recreating our own lives without the loved one. This can be a painful journey of discovery.
We encourage you to find a support group of bereaved in your area. This will provide a place where you can be with others who are grieving. It will also provide a safe place to share your thoughts and stories. Hospice offers a wonderful series of free workshop sessions open to the public. The workshops usually run around six weeks and provide information on how to find and use tools for coping with grief. Sometimes a grief counselor can provide direction past some of the rougher more complicated areas. If this is the case, it is important to find a trained grief counselor. However, many have the ability to address grief issues simply using grief tools themselves to begin recovery of balance and resolve issues. During these uncertain and painful times, companionship and support from friends and relatives is important and the grieving should be encouraged to know that we are not alone. Countless others have experienced loss before us and we can learn from their journeys.
Your local bookstore and library will have a section devoted to books about death and bereavement, including books written by the bereaved themselves, sharing their own personal stories of healing and finding what has become their new normal. Some writings will direct you through difficult questions and reflections. Look through the books before you purchase and be sure it is suited to your individual needs and interests. Recognize that not all the thoughts and words will apply to you. As you sift through the book, begin to find yourself. Reading the thoughts of others will help you feel less alone. Writing about your pain is another powerful grief tool to consider using on your own journey. Your grief work will help you find ways to honor, embrace, and process your issues, while recreating your life without your loved one.
We wish you strength and courage for this journey. If your loss is recent, remember that you are likely in the very early stages of your grief. You are not alone. You can find help. Grief cannot be outrun, outworked or out-distanced. To be successfully resolved, grief needs to be embraced and worked through. Do not rush to feel better. Be patient with yourself and move slowly and carefully with decisions. Learn all you can about what is happening to you. Grief is a process. It takes time. You might hear that “time heals.” Time creates distance. It’s what you do with the time that will make the biggest difference.