Recently I challenged those in the support group to share what advice they would give to someone who had just lost a loved one. The answers varied depending on how long it had been since their loved one had died. My hope is that you will find some of the experiences these individuals have come to understand insightful to you.
As we began the sharing you heard some deep sighs as those present gave it much thought, but slowly they began to share imparting their new found wisdom on those who had just joined us.
One participant began by sharing that you need to give yourself time; time to let it sink in; time to adjust to the changes in your life; time for yourself and most importantly time to go through the range of emotions.
This is so very true, we find ourselves "rushed" through everything we do in life. We rush to appointments, we hurry to get to work or class on time, we look for the shortest line in the grocery store, etc., etc. But when it comes to grief, we begin to learn that in order to heal, we need to give ourselves time; a commodity that is in short supply. In grief, time is a relative word, because each of us requires different time-frames, and there are no rules or time frames when it comes to grieving. It requires us to be patient with ourselves, understanding that there will be days when we need to stop and allow the emotions to run their course. Days when all are good intentions are dashed away by some infinite trigger that turns us into a confused, emotional blob. Days when we come to the realization that we are becoming someone new as we adapt to the new life we have been thrown into. All this effort and work takes time, and in grief it is important to remember to take all the time you need, regardless of what society, family, friends and co-workers are telling you.
Another participant said that they would strongly recommend that they seek out others who would at least understand, by joining support groups and going to counseling. Further adding that they would also recommend that when ready, to seek out activities that would give them something to look forward to each day.
Sage advice from someone who is hurting. The key message here is that none of us needs to go it alone, there are many others who have experienced what we are experiencing; who have an understanding of what it means to lose someone we love; who gets it. Joining support groups are a great way of sharing our stories and that of our loved ones, as well as listening to others; helping us to realize that others may be feeling the same way. It also provides us with a safe environment that allows us to share thoughts, feelings and emotions; in a non-judgmental setting. Counseling also gives us a safe place to fully express ourselves and many grievers will do both - get one-on-one counseling and join a local support group, finding that one lends itself to the other. The goal is to find a support system that will be there for you on those difficult days and times during your grief. And when you feel ready, finding activities that allow you to do things you love, helps you regain focus and gives you a renewed sense of purpose.
It is important to remember that grief is hard work, it does take time, and it will get messy. Learning all we can about what we are going through, about grief and its emotional and physical manifestations, can help us make some sense out of the chaos. We need to be good to ourselves, taking it one day at a time, and if that seems like too much to handle, taking one moment at a time. Learning to be patient with ourselves and the new person we are becoming with all its growing pains. Coming to the knowledge that we are not alone, nor do we have to go it alone. And realizing that we are not demonstrating weakness by shedding tears or asking for help, but rather, demonstrating great courage by doing so. Grief can make us feel so terribly isolated, as if we are afloat on a vast sea, but that does not have to be the case. There are beacons of hope all around us, we just need to believe that there are others who understand. The only thing that is required from us, is to simply stretch out our hand, trusting that someone will grasp it, hold on tight and guide us into a safe harbor. There we will find all the encouragement and hope we need.
Blessings! and until we meet again.