Have you ever filed an article in a read later folder? A week or two later open it and smack yourself because you should have read it sooner? I did just that. Here is this gem on grief, grieving, and more.
The article titled "Coping with Grief and Loss" is on www.helpguide.org with the tag line 'Your trusted guide to mental health & wellness'. This is the internet so a heathy dose of skepticism is warranted. Especially when the word 'trusted' is used. Color me wrong. This longish, detailed, and excellent article offers all of us floating in that suspended animation called grief help, hope, and healing. And for those of us giving the side eye to friends and family who bravely tried to help with our grief and loss so many tips and understanding for them. Worth a share.
The article open with 'What is Grief'. That section got me at the first sentence, 'Grief is a natural response to loss.' The operative words being natural and response. Loss happens, it will happen to us all, and we naturally respond in our own unique way. I know I did. Looking back I clearly see during Donna's illness and following her death my OCD was at full tilt. I had to get things done and done well. That response took center stage. That was who I am and who Donna and I were, two people committed to our life well organized and focused. With the clarity of 20/20 hindsight I put most emotions on hold to get Donna to her appointments. I put my pain on hold to care for her. After her death I focused on doing all that we did together, meals, shopping, chores, Christmas cards, birthday cards, etc. During that time I did not as much avoid my pain as I faced it when I would make a Sunday meal without her. Or trying to find items to replace worn sheets etc. at home. I felt my loss through the touch stone of everyday moments that sparked my life loss.
There is a wonderful section on myths and facts about grief and grieving. The first Myth: The pain will go away faster is you ignore it. Fact: The more you deny and worse in the long run.
I have frequently said this same thing: accept your grief, loss, and pain. Do not ignore it. The day Donna died I called friends and family. One close long-time friend said just that to me. I heard it and more, I need to examine and charge at my grief. Pull my grief apart and perform a post momentum on my life, Donna's, and our life. It was and hard, painful, and enlightening. This gross anatomy dive into my loss yielded this: Closure is denial said pretty. Closure is indifference. Closure is a myth. There are more myths and facts in the linked article.. One myth I love is 'Grieving should last about a year.' ha ha ha FU (Follow-up) It's my grief I will do what I want with it on my terms and timeline.
Dealing With Grief
How to deal with the grieving process is a short section the first item is key for all of us grieving. At least for me. 'Acknowledge your pain.' I have and will continue to acknowledge ALL of it. Before you look at me with those puppy sad eyes know that it's my pain, my terms, my understanding of it, and my ability to access it as needed. Grieving by its nature is painful. It is a darkness we pass through stumbling on memories that bruise our shins like a drunk in a dark room hitting a coffee table and stub toes on table legs. It is too stock an answer to say what doesn’t kill us makes us strong. Sure but, there is more. You can read my take on post traumatic growth here and a much longer piece here.
The article addresses Kubler-Ross's five stages of grief. To their credit they capture what all of us thrown into grief know, these five stages are not a 'rigid framework that applies to everyone' and 'there is not a typical response to loss, as is not typical loss.' Indeed.
Oh there is 'Emotional symptoms of grief'. Shock and disbelief was not really on my list since Donna was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and told she had six months to live. Her care was excellent and she lived for nearly three years. At the diagnosis I knew this story did not have a happy ending. I did start grieving that day. The shock and disbelief was put on hold for caregiving
Sadness is called a universal symptom. Some days my sadness fills the universe like a super nova. I let it be and bask in its light show.
Guilt they note may be, or not saying or doing things you should have or said. Perhaps you didn’t prevent the death. For me my guilt swirls around why do I get to live and Donna doesn’t. I know she is not coming back but I can go to her whenever I choose. I have guilt when I go on a trip. I feel I am leaving her behind.
Anger they say may be centered on God, healthcare, etc. For me my anger raises up like a rooster crowing at dawn when I see a happy couple, a lovely diamond ring on a finger, and even a bag or sweater in a window that Donna would love. I am angry I cant buy that for her or have her to be my other half of a happy couple.
The discussion on support for grief and loss is excellent. The section contains the usual lean on friends and family. Don’t be independent and strong draw others close and share. I know from experience most were there for me and continue to be. The best of the best just allowed me to talk about Donna, us, and me. They listened patiently and those who really got Donna and me were able to tease me a bit. Which helped a bunch. Another point they make is to build new friendships. I can say that on Instagram and Twitter I believe I have added friends I can share with. Also with my volunteer work there have been some casual additions. The article links to a piece on making friends.
Another section is 'Take care of yourself as you grieve'. This is key if you are going charge at your loss and grief to discover more about love, loss, memories, and yourself. If you are not taking the time to be who you were before your loss you will never get to find who you are after your loss. The baseline of you needs to remain intact so you can build upon it. This section makes a number of recommendations but to me the most important two are: Face your feelings and Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. The first is my manta of charging my grief and denying closure. The second one to express yourself is one that I just did without thought. I write, tweet, and share. I try to make my grief a stepping stone to a better smarter me one build on memories that have been deconstructed and considered in terms of Donna, me, and us.
There is much here for those of us who have lost someone or something and have been buried under waves of grief. Read this and share with those in your world who are also grieving. I'd suggest sharing with friends and family who will benefit from a deep understanding of what we have faced and will face. Learning is the only thing that changes our consciousness so here y'go absolute learning about grief 101.
Also there is a PDF to download which can be mailed to family members who don’t get it. Just like those chatty Christmas letters we get and do an eye roll. This PDF is actually helpful and practical.