Sometimes you just don't know who you may meet, or what you might find yourself doing. I met someone yesterday, at one of the wakes that I had spoken about, that reminded me how incredible are bodies are. I was introducing myself and expressing my sympathies, when she told me she had just lost her husband. I was about to say 'I'm sorry' when she said, his funeral was just a few days ago. I was taken aback, and said the only thing I could think of, 'you must still be numb.'
Now I'm thinking, how stupid of me, but she responded by saying, 'yes, thank goodness.' We spoke for a while longer, this stranger who recognized empathy, who somehow new that I new. This woman who had just buried her husband, and now was standing here getting ready to bury her father. Life definitely has no rules. I couldn't help but think about her all evening, and even today I marveled at her composure, her strength. Then I remembered that shock helps, it keeps us functioning, it lets us do what we need to. Then when we are ready, it begins to fade and we become acutely aware of the pain of grief.
Shock was, I know, what got me through that week of making arrangements, taking care of the details, and even preparing an elegy and speaking at my daughter's funeral service. I am sure that many of you, can look back at the funeral of a loved one, and wonder wow, how did I ever managed to do all that. How did I stay sane, how did walk, talk and just cope with it all. Those days may be etched in your memory or are simply a blurr.
The first few weeks, we are still busy, we are still getting calls, cards still arrive and visitors still stop by. The state of shock, of numbness, continues for a bit longer. Then it starts. My thoughts went to this woman that I had just met, and I began to hope that she had family and friends who could catch her when she begins to realize all that has happened. Not that she doesn't realize it now, believe me, I knew Rachel was gone, I just hadn't truly begun to hurt yet.
The first thing I remember feeling was the loneliness, a sense of emptiness, and a heaviness I could not explain. I wanted company and I wanted to be alone, I wanted to talk and I wanted to remain silent. Of course you can have it simultaneously, but that is what I wanted. One thing for sure, I craved the silence when I was alone.
We are all so different when it comes to how we handle grief, and we each need to find what works for us. We also cannot let anyone tells us where we should be as far as the grieving goes, and that after a prescribed time, we should be all set with 'this grieving thing.' Of course, circumstances, our relationship to the deceased and a host of other aspects, can impact our grief. In some instances, grief can become complicated. The Mayo Clinic states that in complicated grief: 'painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble accepting the death and resuming your own life.'
On their website, they list the symptoms that lead physicians and psychologist to diagnose patients with complicated grief, here are just a few:
- Extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one
- Intense longing or pining for the deceased
- Problems accepting the death
- Numbness or detachment
- Preoccupation with your sorrow
- Bitterness about your loss
- Inability to enjoy life
For a complete list, visit their website: Mayoclinic.com they have a wide variety of information on grief.
We all cope with death in our own way, but if it becomes too much to handle, we should not try to go it alone. We also need to look out for others who we may know that are going through the grieving process. None of us can make anyone do something they don't want to, but with gentle nudging, sometimes we can help them find help. Yes we are all so very busy, but sometimes we need to stop and listen, to truly hear. We may not be able to do anything, but just that fact that we stopped and allowed this person to share their pain with us, makes a difference.
These simple gestures helped me at the time of Rachel's death, helped me in the weeks and months that followed, and very much help me today. I know I can not help everyone I meet, but at least I know that I can let them hold my hand, I can let them share their story, and if they need and want it, give them a hug. These were the things I cherished then and still cherish now.
Even though you may not think you can go on, you cannot seem to find a way out, you will. In time, you begin to feel the sun on your face, the warmth and the nurturing it brings. Our bodies are amazing, they can handle so much, take on the world (so to speak), and love without tiring. Even if we are ill, we still find the strength to love, to care, to hope and to hold onto to faith.
There is a beautiful bible passage from 1 Corinthians 13:13 that sums it all up: 'So faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.'
Love what a beautiful gift. Love is what we are given from the moment we met our loved one, and what remains long after they have gone.
Blessings! and until we meet again.