I’ve grieved a lot in my life and you’d think I’d be a pro at it by now but I am not. I think you never get to become a real pro at it because it constantly changes.
Grief is not owed solely by people who’ve suffered a loss due to death. Grieving is far more complicated. We can grieve the loss of a friend who moves away, a home we love, aging out of your favourite sport without a contract to continue in the majors, certain holidays, experiences that never happened or dreams that escaped your reach, the life you hoped for or thought you would have.
Even when grieving a death, grief can be a weirdo. You can grieve, think you are doing really well then see a butterfly or a sunset and the loss hits you again like it only happened yesterday.
I lost many people at a very young age. In their teens, 20’s or 30’s. I would deal with the losses but then years would pass, I would feel fine until the anniversary of their death arrived and it was the anniversary of them being gone longer than they lived. To die at 19 is bad enough but to be gone for 20 years just seems worse for some reason and I grieved all over again.
There just seems to be no rule book for grief.
According to a class I took about loss (I took it twice), grief is more like a garden and there are no hard and fast rules. There are days when I feel as though I walk through that garden and stop to smell the roses. My thoughts are calm and orderly. I am able to think of happy times and sweet memories.
Then their are other days when that garden is filled with locusts eating all the greenery and gophers digging big holes that I keep stepping in. The garden is just one big mess. My memories are mixed, my emotions are jumbled, and I am feeling miserable.
Do you find this as well?
For as wild and weird as grief can be, I do believe that there are things we can do to help ourselves and the biggest one is to just accept what you feel and do not judge yourself for it. Feel what you need to feel without adding guilt or shame to the mix. Find people who will allow you to express what you need to without any judgements.
For those who have lost someone through death, there is a “Mourners Bill of Rights”! Did you know that?
The Mourner’s Bill of Rights
Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you.
The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.
1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.
2. You have the right to talk about your grief.
Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.
3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions.
Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.
5. You have the right to experience “griefbursts.”
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.
6. You have the right to make use of ritual.
The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.
7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.
8. You have the right to search for meaning.
You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.
9. You have the right to treasure your memories.
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.
10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal.
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.
I am grieving a lot right now. I have lost an awful lot over the past year. Huge losses. This Christmas season was incredibly difficult and I grieved not only for relationships or people who I have lost but I grieved for what I never had. I felt the losses deeply. I tried to “happy myself” out of it (exactly the opposite from what I am encouraging you to do but only because I learned a valuable lesson and wish to share it) but it never worked. I just felt worse.
I have made wonderful gains over this past year as well but I need to step back sometimes and allow myself to feel the grief that I need to feel. If I don’t? If you don’t? I believe it just festers and grows. It will end up seeping out somewhere else when you least expect it.
Once again my final words are about being compassionate with yourself. When you catch yourself saying that you need to forget something and move on, that it’s been long enough, that you should be more grateful or someone always has it worse, that you should…. should ANYTHING…
Give yourself a break. If you need to feel it for the first time or the hundredth, just feel it without judgement.