Grief and Loss

grief7654I have been thinking about grief a lot lately. Even though I have spent years working in bereavement, it never seems to get easier when it hits close to home. Several long time family friends passed away this year, my neighbor died last month, one of my college sorority sisters passed away recently and as Father’s Day approaches, I think a lot about my sweet Dad who died in 2007 and who I miss everyday.

As the owner of Silver Connections, I am also privileged to meet many individuals who contact me and are struggling with their grief and loss, but who are reaching out to find socializing opportunities and ways to connect to others.  My respect for them is immense; in spite of their grief, they realize they have to try and make their way and engage in life.

Grief is universal, but most people don’t learn about grief until it thrusts them onto the roller coaster of major loss.  And though each person has their own journey, still they share many common experiences.

Yet, there is so much misinformation and confusion around grief. Principally, this comes from the widely-held myths that grief should be short, that grief has closure, that people should get on with their lives unchanged and that ongoing connection with the deceased is somehow pathological.

Below are six principles, cited by Ashley Bush, to help understand the grieving process and to support those who have suffered a loss.

1. Grief is a normal reaction — Grief is the natural emotional and physical response to the death of a loved one. Although our society desperately wants to avoid the messiness of deep sorrow, there is no way out except through the pain. Typical numbing techniques such as medications, alcohol and food are only temporary distractions to dull the pain.

Letting oneself grieve by going directly into the pain — in manageable doses over a long period of time — is healing. Avoiding the pain simply forces it to go deep into the heart where it subtly affects emotional and physical health.

 

2. Grief is hard work — Grief isn’t easy and it isn’t pretty. It involves tears, sleepless nights, pain, sorrow and a heartache that knocks you to your knees. It can be hard to concentrate, hard to think clearly, hard to read and easy to forget all the details of life that everyone else seems to remember. Grievers frequently feel that they’re going crazy and they sometimes wish to die. This doesn’t mean that they’re actively suicidal, it just means that they’re grieving.

 

3. Grief doesn’t offer closure — Closure is an idea that we like because we want to tie up our emotional messes with a bow and put them in the back of a closet. But grief refuses to play this game. Grief tends towards healing not closure. The funeral can be healing, visiting a gravesite can be healing, performing rituals, writing in journals and making pilgrimages can be personally meaningful and healing. But they will not bring closure. Closure is relevant to business deals but not to the human heart.

 

4. Grief is lifelong — Although we all want quick fixes and short-term solutions, grief won’t accommodate us. Many people want grief to be over in a few weeks or a few months and certainly within a year. And yet, many grievers know that the second year is actually harder than the first.  The shock has worn off and the reality of the pain has truly sunk in.

No matter how many years go by, there will be occasional days when grief bursts through with a certain rawness. There will be days, even decades later, when sadness crosses over like a storm cloud. And likely, every day going forward will involve some memory, some connection to missing the beloved.

 

5. Grievers need to stay connected to the deceased — While some might find it odd or uncomfortable to keep talking about a loved one after they have passed, or find it disconcerting to see photographs of those who have died, it is healthy to keep the connection alive. My heart goes out to a generation or more of grievers who were told to cut their ties to their deceased loved ones, to move on, almost as if they had never existed.  It is important to honor the birthdays and departure days of deceased loved ones. Their physical presence may be gone, but they remain in relationship to the griever in a new way beyond form, a way based in spirit and love.

 

6. Grievers are changed forever — Those who expect grievers to eventually get back to their old selves, will be quite disappointed. Grief, like all major life experiences, changes a person irrevocably. People don’t remain unchanged after getting an education, getting married, having a baby, getting divorced or changing careers. Grief, too, adds to the compost mixture of life, creating rich and fertile soil. It teaches about living and dying, about pain and love and about impermanence. While some people are changed by grief in a way that makes them bitter and shut down, it is also possible to use grief as a springboard for compassion, wisdom, and open-heartedness.

 

Finding acceptance in the loss may be just having more good days than bad ones. In beginning to enjoy life, some feel that they are betraying their loved one. They can never replace what has been lost, but can make new connections and new meaningful relationships.

 

“You are near, even if I don’t see you.  You are with me, even if you are far away.  You are in my heart, in my thoughts, in my life, Always.” – M.Holland

 

 

Laura Kay House, MA, is the founder and owner of Silver Connections, located in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Silver Connections provides numerous socializing opportunities through events and travel, personal service, quality members and connections for age 55+ (mostly Boomers!) active and single adults. 

 

SILVER CONNECTIONS WEBSITE:

www.silverconnections.org

 

 

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