By John Fulton
So a loved one has passed away recently. It may have been a dear friend, spouse, child or another treasured relationship. You are now having all these feelings. Sometimes you are feeling angry, maybe lonely, even relief when the loved has been suffering, and perhaps even guilt that you feel relieved. Maybe you had harsh words recently, couldn’t be there or wished it was you.
There are a flood of emotions that come into your mind during times of grief. We don’t all experience loss and grief the same way, share the same recovery path or experience the intensity the same as those around us. There are some steps that grieving people go through, but they don’t happen in a certain order.
The recovery process is unique to each of us. There is no timeline that you should be at a certain point in the process. However, we do need to be moving forward. There are friends, family, and others around us that may be dependent upon us and we owe it to ourselves to reach a new normal. GriefShare.org says “We don’t move on leaving our loved one behind. We move forward taking our memories of them with us.”
This writer speaks from the personal experience of the death of my spouse, Karen. We were married 18 years. I went through the grief process. Experienced the thoughts of hopelessness, anger at God, feelings and thoughts of “what is the point?” Cancer was the culprit. I have battled various cancers for 16 years and was prepared for my own demise. The diagnosis and subsequent death of Karen just two months later was devastating.
For my recovery, I became more involved in volunteering at my church, joined a Christian men’s group, bought a motorcycle and toured the country. For a month I vented, prayed and cried over the good times and the bad for all 6,000 miles.
There were many surprises during recovery. One surprise was that some people that I would have expected to be most involved in recovery seemed absent. Then there were strangers that came into my life and helped bring life back. Others I would not have thought to be there for me reached out to me regularly to help me heal. You probably recognize me as the religion writer for South County News. Of course, I believe God ordained these people to come into my life and He worked through them. I also have to mention how much my faith sustained me through my grief.
Another surprise was the reactions of others when I saw them. People just don’t know how to act or what to say. They don’t want to laugh around you. They hesitate to mention your loss because they don’t want to make you cry. Some people may say ridiculous things like “at least you have other kids”, “at least they are in a better place”, “now you can move on with your life (in the case of a long-term illness).” You don’t know how I feel, even if you suffered a similar loss. It also is not helpful when you share at the visitation or funeral your long, detailed story of how your parent, boss, friend, or third cousin twice removed died of the same thing or totally unrelated thing.
From experience, almost everything will make you cry during this time. Perhaps the best thing others can do for you is push through their own discomfort and be real with you. It is fine to mention the loss. Don’t be afraid to use the deceased’s name. It humanizes them and we desperately want to keep their memory alive. We would love to hear a story about them and how they impacted your life. If we cry, it’s okay. Maybe just give us a hug.
Then don’t forget the grieving. We understand after the funeral that everybody has a life and responsibilities to go back to. But our life has a gaping hole and if you now live alone the silence is overwhelming. While this will improve over time it won’t end in a week, month, a year or often longer. Until you go through a significant loss you probably won’t understand how even a five-minute phone call can make your day. It shows you care, provides a break from the silence and provides personal contact. I would suggest calling before you just drop in – some days are better than others.
I was told a widower should never turn down an invite for dinner. Do your part and invite your friend to dinner at your house or out to dinner. A friend of mine asked me to take a once a week class with him. This gave me something to look forward to all day. Be creative. Suggest something, anything. Golf, coffee, a walk, a baseball game. The answer may be no at first, but keep asking. Don’t get offended. For the grief-stricken, just getting out of bed in the early days of grief is an accomplishment.
There are many resources out there that are secular and Christian based. Someone told my mom about GriefShare.org and she told me. It offers many resources. My mom and I did the daily devotional for grief together. It was awesome to share the devotional and our feelings, especially with my mom who knows me better than I do. She and other family members had their own unique feelings and grief recovery that wasn’t always the same as mine.
GriefShare sponsors groups that meet all around the country. They are called “Your Journey from Mourning to Joy.” The locations and meeting information can be found at the above website. These groups can be found right in Vicksburg and surrounding areas. I strongly recommend this group.
As an encouragement for you experiencing grief right now, I can say it will get better. Partly just passing of time helps, but there are also real steps you can take to help you though the process. Remember your feelings are normal. You won’t forget the person you lost. They would want you to recover and live a full life.