Not to bring everyone down, but Grief is something that all families must face at one time or another. Yet it is something that no one wants to talk about. But if handled correctly when it arrives it can be a great growing experience for a family. It can either bring you closer together or push you farther apart.
Today being my mom’s first birthday since her passing I felt it was important to share what I have learned about grief these last few years. You see, our journey through grief began in 2003 with the sudden death of my niece Rachel. And then proceeded since then to also lose my oldest sister, a few months later followed by a Nephew, then a few months later follow by my Dear Uncle, and then now my mom in May 2015. We’ve had quite a lot of experience with coping with grief and dealing with death these last few years.
So while everyone else is out partying Cinco De Mayo style, forgive me for not being in the partying mood. My Mom was a pillar of strength and faith. And the one thing that was so important to her was family and not letting things tear family apart. If you understand grief more, then when you face it, you will be better equipped to not let it destroy your relationships.
1. It doesn’t go away. Obviously you have a big dose of grief right after your loss. But most people think you get over it and carry on. What they don’t know is that you carry a part of that grief with you always. You love the person you just lost. You don’t forget them and you don’t stop missing them. Just with time you become better adapted and can function better in life. But missing them never goes away. You don’t just get over losing someone who meant so much to you. You will have good days and bad days.
Anniversary days are one that can often bring back grief in stronger force. Days like the person’s birthday, the anniversary of their death, Memorial Day and holidays. It’s best to know that you will have these days. Instead of wallowing, choose to honor the one you love so much. Take time to remember them. Remember the good things. Honor them. Some friends of ours have created a day of service on the birthday of their son who was lost. It’s a great way to heal and honor the one they love.
2. Normal is gone. People who haven’t experienced grief unknowingly say
“Just give it time and things will get back to normal.”
But they don’t get it. Normal is gone! You will never experience that normal again. Your life now has a big gaping hole that person that you just lost has left in your lives. There’s no way to go back to how life was when they were there. There is no such thing as normal anymore. Through much grief, work, and time you have to create a NEW Normal for your life. But the grief doesn’t go away, and they can’t come back. So there is no getting back to the normal from before.
3. You can’t fix it. Those who haven’t experienced great grief don’t understand that it’s not something they can fix. I found often I was met with people who were trying to help by offering advice.
“This isn’t the end. You will see them again. Have faith. They are in a better place…etc etc”
That doesn’t help the one grieving. Either they know this already and accept it or they don’t believe in such things. Either way picking the time when they are freshly grieving to offer such advice is not the time to convert them into faith. It doesn’t help.
It makes them more bitter because you are not allowing them to grieve. Such advice is viewed as you trying to “fix ” them and make them stop missing the person they just lost. But they won’t stop missing them and they don’t want to forget them. Don’t try to fix the grief. Let us grieve. We need to if we are ever to work through the grief.
If you want to help just love us. That’s what we really need. To know we are not alone and that you love us, sobbing grief cry with snot and tears and all.
4. I’m grieving I’m not Faithless. We are a very faith based family. We believe in Christ, and we believe in an afterlife where we will be with our loved ones again. This is a very strong foundation in our life. But when grief hits there have been times when people assume that because someone is grieving that they don’t have faith. Which is simply not true.
Even the most faith filled person grieves when they lose people they love. Even Christ grieved Lazarus knowing full well that he would raise him from the dead! (John 11:35)
Grieving does not mean that you have lost faith. It’s what you must work through to accept that your loved one is no longer easily accessible. You love them. And you miss them. Your life is in chaos because there is now a large void where that person used to be and you haven’t created a new normal yet. It’s natural to grieve.
Don’t think we have no faith while we mourn, miss and cherish memories of our loved one. Our usual faithful self will return as long as we are met with love and allowance. But don’t start preaching to us about having faith and condemning us for mourning. If we had more faith YES we would still mourn. So just give us time. If we are loved and allowed to grieve often times this can even increase our faith.
As we work through the grief, you will find we often rely on our faith to work through the mourning. But to have someone assume we have lost our faith because we mourn and they must save us will only push us farther away.
5. It will Surprise you! Like I said earlier, grief doesn’t go away. You simply create a new normal and over time and experience with your grief you are able to become better at managing it. But grief is sneaky. You will think you are doing fine and things are going well. Then out of the blue BAM!! You end up blindsided with a burst of grief that is almost as fresh as when it happened.
You find yourself unable to stop thinking of said person and burst into tears randomly. For my Sister and Brother-in-law they call them Rachel Days since they lost their daughter. Well now I have several grief days after losing my niece, my oldest sister, my 3rd sister’s son, a dear uncle and most recently my mom. I call these “mom days”. I think my husband might think I’m losing it when I experience those days frequently together. But I just explain it’s a grief day and he gives me a little extra room to cry.
So what can one do if someone they love is grieving?
Give them the right and time to grieve. Don’t try to get them over it. Don’t push faith. Now is not the time for preaching. Let them know you are there to talk if they need. Sometimes talking about and remembering the lost one can help. Let the grieving person know that you love and support them. If possible try to help take over some of the grieving persons responsibilities on the especially hard days like making meals, entertain the kids, clean the house, etc.
If you are grieving, let yourself grieve. If you don’t you will face a breakdown later. Our minds and bodies need to express grief in order to heal healthy. Yes you will always miss them. But you will be able to continue. After you work through the raw grief begin building your new normal. And allow yourself days to remember and miss your loved one when they arrive. Just be sure you are not wallowing in it. Yes it sucks but yes you need to work on your grief and find acceptance. But know you are not alone and you are loved. Also you need to remember that all those people who are really ticking you off right now with the
“What can I do to help?”
“Time will heal all wounds”
“They are in a better place”
“Have faith it will get better”
Yeah, all those people. Give them a break. They are trying to show you they care and help you. They just don’t know or realize that the words they say, while meant to help, actually can hurt. I’ll say it again because we need to hear it again; they are trying to show you they care. Accept the love, ignore the words.
BONUS: after discussing with a fellow friend/neighbor who lost her son I was reminded of a few more things that are worth mentioning.
- Mourning yourself. You change after you suffer great loss. Don’t be surprised if one day you mourn who you were before you went through the grief. It is normal.
- Distraction is helpful. Sometimes they need help to get out of grief, so taking them to a movie, a night out with friends doing something FUN or with comedy (sometimes we need to laugh because we get tired of crying), getting a pedicure or even just a good uplifting book to read are very helpful!
- Remember the Difficult Days. To help someone who is grieving sometimes sending a note saying you remember why they are grieving and understand why this particular day may be hard is immensely helpful. Let them know you are thinking of them and love them. Dates this is extra helpful are the Birthdays, yearly anniversary of the death and major holidays.
If you are looking for more incite into what it is like for someone grieving, or you are grieving and looking to hear from more people who have been where you are, I invite you to visit Dad Without a Daughter. He shares his story about losing his 7 year old daughter and managing grief through the process.
For more resources you may find helpful
What helped you most when you experienced grief?
What advice would you give someone who have never experienced grief on how they can help?