Grief is Not a Timeline
Grief is hard. Time doesn't heal it and words won't fix it. It is just there, like a heavy rock weighing you down. As life continues, you get stronger from carrying the grief with you, but it is always there. Time only allows us to gain strength and find our new normal.
What is also difficult is when the initial death happens, you tend to get surrounded with people, then after the funeral, a quiet empty feeling sets in. People fade away and move on but you still have the grief and the struggle.
Just know that there is not a timeline to deal with grief. Especially when the reality is, it never goes away. We just learn to move forward, and do the next thing we can. Let yourself cry, let yourself be sad, and then focus on the next step to the new normal. Talk about it and remember even when it is hard. Let the tears fall as the memories fill your heart.
Grief also is different for every person and situation. What I mean is that having a brother die is different than losing a son. My brother died when I was 13. He was a year older than me and we were always together. I was faced with dealing with grief, my parents' grief, and finding who I was without him. I was lost and had to find my way, we shared a birthday and were very close and boom he was gone in the blink of an eye. My whole life changed and it was the last day I was a child. I had to grow and move forward. That was 21 years ago and there are days I still cry. I think of him daily, wondering who he would be today. A song comes on the radio and tears flow, and I let them because the grief is still heavy and the tears lighten the load.
Then there is a grief like no other, the loss of a child. I hope no one has to go through this but the truth is, it happens daily. My situation was different from my parents. I was 6 months pregnant and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, who died in my arms. This grief is a burden that many face but not many talk about. So Many feelings come with it, guilt, fear, loss of future, emptiness, I could go on. I think of my angel baby often, try to be positive and keep her in my heart. Again, some days I let myself cry, then I put on my big girl panties and move forward. I now have a beautiful 6 year old daughter that I am thankful for!
And can we talk about compound grief! Talk about complicated, it layers up inside you and gets heavier until it fills you up and flows out. Example of this in my life is I lost a baby and her due date was May 7th, which didn't happen. Then on May 7th, my due date, my puppy was born. A springer spaniel named Nike. She was my baby, I loved that dog. Then she ended up sick and died when she was five and all the grief hit me hard. Yes I was grieving my dog, but underneath it, I was grieving the loss of my baby.
Animals are a part of our family, and losing them is awful. My cat of 13years died the morning I wrote this, which is what prompted this blog. Some people may say it is just a cat or dog, but it is a friend, family, or a situation of compound grief.
When faced with grief, remember to let yourself be sad, but focus on the next thing you can do. Like dishes or self-care. Don't try to get over the grief, but find your new normal. Remember, losing a loved one will stay with you, even years later. It is not weak or that something is wrong with you, it is love and it lasts forever.
If you know someone experiencing a loss, remember there is nothing you can say to make it better. But when you say "I am sorry" the person has to say "It is ok" or something along those lines. This makes them comfort you. I know this is something that we are trained to say, but it is not helpful. Neither is saying that time will heal. Death sucks no matter the situation. Say it, because the grieving person is feeling it. Sit with them in their grief, listen to them, talk about memories, cry together.
I think grief is my limit as a counselor. Not because I can't deal with it, but I have so much empathy, I just cry with my students and families. I don't like to deal with grief, but no one does. I always warn families that I have no words to take away their feelings, but I will sit with them, listen, and cry. I know that sounds weird, but it is true for me.
I will leave you with this, don't forget your grieving friends. Just because the funeral is over, doesn't mean they don't need support. The quiet is the hardest part, a call can make a difference. Try to remember dates, like birthdays, due dates, or anniversaries, and a text, card, or a visit can make it a little easier. Stop by with food or drinks, just because.
You never know what a difference you can make with a smile and a laugh.