With the major holidays just around the corner, many people think of food, family, gifts and resolutions.
But for many people, the holidays trigger grief from loss of a loved one who won’t be participating, at least not bodily, in the season. There is a lot of confusion about grief by those who haven’t been touched by as close as others. We all know someone who has passed, but when someone significant and close to us dies, that grief comes in waves, some crashing against us so hard we don’t know what to do with it.
Birthday, anniversaries, the anniversary of the passing or onset of the disease or tragedy, the emptiness of the space they once held- can all prompt feelings of grief in us, and that’s OK. Everyone processes death differently and everyone handles grief uniquely. And when someone handles grief another way than you are handling it, they can be less than empathetic. They may say things like:
“Get over it.”
“Snap out of it.”
They may spend less time with you as they become more dismissive of your pain or become impatient with your process. But this isn’t your problem, it is theirs. And, the people around you seem to say the wrong things more than the right ones- ones that support you.
Here are a few things to remember in your grief:
Ask for what you need.
If you want your friend to just shut up and listen, ask for it. If you want a hug, prayer, a casserole or alone time, ask for it. Take care of yourself. This also helps your friends to help you in the ways you need, instead of relying on them to just know. They can’t know, they aren’t having the exact experience you are.
Recognize when you need support.
Being alone may be what you prefer and need, however it is important to know that support is available if you become severely depressed. Professional help is available in the form of counseling, support groups and even nutritional or pharmaceutical support. There is no reason to be embarrassed about getting support when depression is negatively effecting your ability to work, perform self-care or is creating thoughts of suicide.
You will make it through this.
Pain has a way of refining us and building character. When you come through the darkest moments of grief, you will eventually be able to comfort others who have gone through it. This isn’t to say you “heal” from grief, but you will have empathy for what others are going through and will better know how to support them. And when that next wave hits, regardless of its strength, you may have built a stronger network of friends than what you had before.
Death of a loved one may have changed the path of your life, and certainly left an imprint of pain in your heart, and yet you are not alone. Reach out to others who are experiencing or have experienced grief and build from there. And as one writer put it, the pain will end one day.
“At the end of my time here on the planet, I will either be reunited with my father in some glorious mystery, or simply reach my last day of mourning his loss.
Either way I’m beginning to rest in the simple truth:
– John Pavlovitz