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Monday, February 1, 2016

It's been A While

Lately there have been so many deaths that leave a person questioning 'Why?'.  As a grief and support group facilitator, I have helped individuals who have suffered through the death of a loved one.  Many of those who I have worked with want a quick solution to the pain they are feeling or want to know how long before they will get over it.  Alas, there is no quick fix, no magic pill, or easy way out.  Grief is hard work, difficult to avoid and it takes time.  But those of us who have stuck in our heels and rolled up our sleeves, have found that the pay off is well worth the struggle. 

When it comes to time, there is no rushing it and it will take as much time as YOU require; there is no preset time frames or measured length.  Looking back after the loss of my daughter, for me it was a good three years before I can honestly say I was fully functional.  What I mean by this, is that I had learned to accept that Rachel was gone, but yet she was closer to me than ever before.  I could go through the day thinking of her without having to run and hide, or breaking into uncontrollable sobs.  It was also at this point, that I realized that listening to someone else's pain and grief did not send me back into a fetal position, as it had so many times before.   Yes it still hurt to know that Rachel was gone, and I still feel the ache of her absence even almost 10 years later, but it is a not a crippling, stop-me-in-my-tracks, kind of hurting.

Anyone who has had any major loss knows, that you truly never get over the loss of your loved one, you just learn how to live without them in your life.  Yet, some how some way that is hard to explain unless you have gone through it yourself, they become a bigger part of your life.  They go from the physical existence to a place of love that you keep in your heart. That place in your heart that knows that love truly never dies.  

So why does it hurt so much?  Why do I feel like the winds been knocked out of me?  Why?  Love!  Love is the reason it hurt so much.  We feel this way because someone we loved so dearly is gone and we miss what they represented in our lives.  We feel empty and alone and that somehow it just isn't fair.  Often I will hear words such as 'I needed more time' or 'it wasn't enough time,' and 'I didn't get to say good-bye.'  Yet would anyone of us be willing to give up what we had as a trade off for not hurting.  I can't speak for the rest of you, but I would not want to have missed a moment with my daughter, and given the outcome, I would gladly do it all again. 

Grief is a necessary part of healing.  If we are willing to allow ourselves to go through the process of grief, we emerge on the other side of it, with a new sense of who we are and what we value in life.  For the willing pupil, grief is a remarkable teacher.  Robert Browning Hamilton's poem 'I Walked A Mile With Pleasure' sums up what so many of us have learned about grieving...

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

For me, I learned empathy,compassion and how to step back at truly look at a situation from every angle.  This has not only helped me, but now I have come to help others.  As I share with those I help, the benefits are two-fold, not only I am helping others through their grief, but I am also helping myself as well.  Each time their is participation and sharing in the group setting, I am reminded of how far I have come since the loss of my daughter.  For those who attend the group, I am visible proof that even though the struggle is real, you do make it and if you allow it to, you can become a better version of your old self.  Will you ever be the same again?  No!, because the person you were before the death of you loved one, has been transformed in ways that others may not understand or see.  These are not physical changes, but internal changes.  

Most of us recognize the changes in ourselves by the way we view our world and those around us.  We may be more aware of the sights and sounds, colors appear more vivid; we find ourselves leaning in a bit closer when a family member or friend is speaking; we may linger a few seconds longer over a cup of coffee when we are with someone we care about.  Subtle enough for others to miss, but profound enough to impact our lives and way of thinking.  We may also find that we lack patience with trivialities and nonsense that once consumed us, looking instead to what brings value and meaning into our lives..  There are a multitude of ways in which we adapt and change after the death of a loved one, and what we do with these changes is entirely up to us.   

The key to healing is sharing the stories (theirs and ours); expressing our feelings and emotions; giving ourselves permission to grieve, and allowing ourselves to take the time necessary to heal.  For those who find it difficult to open up to family and friends or get the sense that they don't want to hear it again; support groups, grief facilitators, counselors, ministers, etc., are all resources that you can tap into that can help.  These are all safe environments where you can share, listen and know that others understand, and are willing to walk with you during this time of grieving.  One thing to remember is that you are not alone, others have been there before, and so many are willing to help you go through it.  Look around you, someone is holding out their hand, do not be afraid to reach out and take the hand that is offered.  

Our grief is unique and no one truly knows what you are going through even if their loss is similar, but what they do know, is the pain and isolation when can feel when their grieving.  Be good to yourself, take care of yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Blessings!  Until we meet again.

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