By Michael French
None of us will be spared what can seem an overwhelmingly unbearable emotion – grief.
The “Grim Reaper” has always been an equal opportunity heart breaker. He’s practiced diversity since the beginning of time. This hooded harvester of life picks who he wants, when he wants to, often with no warning. No matter what the circumstances we are not prepared for grief because we really don’t know how we will feel.
We grieve from the passing of people we love, pets, or heroes, because they stood for positive change in our world. We grieve from a sense of betrayal, the loss of a relationship or employment. Grief is very personal. As insurmountable as it can feel, grief is actually a very necessary, healthy healing process.
There are five commonly accepted stages of grief that most people go through following a serious loss: Denial & Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Some become mired in one of the first four stages. Life can be very painful until they find the strength to move to the fifth – and the most elusive – stage: Acceptance.
Denial comes from shock and disbelief. It’s imperative to not deny grief. Denial only adds to the emotional trauma, delays acceptance and, ultimately, recovery. Withdrawal is common during this phase. Try to keep your social contacts close. Anger maybe directed at the person, living or deceased, who inflicted the pain we suffer. Anger can also be directed at him/herself for letting the event take place, even if realistically, nothing could have stopped it. Depression, natural during grief, but still an insidious happiness bandit, can leave one feeling numb, with anger and sadness lying under its veneer. Bargaining may be attempted with God, asking, “If I do this or don’t do that, will you take the pain away?” Acceptance takes the longest. It arrives when sadness and mourning have tapered off, and the reality of the loss’s finality has been acknowledged. During grief, conflicting emotions are common. Sorrow, loneliness, guilt, anxiety are companions of serious loss. Suppressing or denying these feelings thwart working through the stages of grief and places great stress on the body and mind.
Grief is extremely personal. Each person endures and survives grief in their own way. Barring physically or emotionally harmful behavior, like burying sorrow in drugs or alcohol, uncontrolled anger or succumbing to depression, there’s no right or wrong way to endure grief.
Don’t give in to the pressure of other’s expectations of how you should grieve. Grief, especially for caregivers, can begin long before someone dies. When someone you love is going to die and you are given the luxurious privilege of choosing your last memory, seize it! It is a gift you will treasure for the rest of your life. I know this to be true from personal experience.
We cannot stop grieving over those who are deceased. The only way to do that would be if they returned. Each of us learns at our own pace to continue living, keeping memories alive, taking strength from them and being grateful for the fond memories brought to your life by the person or pet. With time, grief becomes easier to bear. It will remain, becoming part of you, like wearing a ring or glasses, but you get used to it, and that’s a good thing. It’s “good” because it makes sure you never forget.
Finally, don’t ever hold back tears. Tears have cleansing powers. They are more a symbol of strength than weakness. An open window to your heart, tears, like a genuine smile, show emotional honesty. They universally convey strong emotion. Silently, they speak words we sometimes can’t even whisper. Tears, the water from our souls, quench a thirst to express our emotions.
They flow from a well of sadness and, paradoxically, joy, too!
Now go TELL, NOT TEXT, someone you love that you do!
Though nothing can bring back the hour of Splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower. We will grieve not, but rather find
Strength in what remains behind. – From the movie: “Splendor in the Grass”
Michael French, is Agenda’s Home from Home columnist. Contact Michael at email@example.com