Tuesday, February 11, 2014

New Rules for grief (just made them up)

Loss/Grief/sorrow... the vast ocean of emotions that fill the heart and senses leave us weak in the knees and often leave us wondering how we will manage to ever catch our breath or balance again. Through the years, I've listened to thousands and thousands of stories, I've watched the eyes and bodies of so many as they describe their individual pain in ways that apply to only them and their experience. It does remind me of the vast sea where one doesn't see land, where even a buoy may be there, but folks forget to grab hold of it for a respite, or for help at times. It is a time at times when the pain of loss takes over and somehow we forget we've always known how to swim, as we kick, scream and feel as though we are drowning. people ask how deep the water of pain is, how deep how long this intense feeling of loss will last, how many moments, years, months will the intensity of the now last while flailing about in exhaustion. Rather than just swimming through it with the faith that they are never alone, because at times like that the depth of sorrow doesn't matter, all that matters is that you keep moving. Remembering the sea is always moving, its depth is its depth, and ever changing we must keep swimming or we will drown. At times we need to rest, to look for a buoy to hang on to, to look for a way to lay on our backs and float while looking up rather than keeping our head down in order to not feel beat up or taking on more than we are capable of at the time.

When we look up there are times the connection is made to the other side, to the knowing that love never dies, that we are never really alone; times when we can in fact breathe fully while re-centering ourselves for the next move, the next breath, the next stroke.There are those times when looking up that we find hope, we find that there is strength from within that will allow us to move through our pain, one breath at a time, in your own time, your own way.

 People mean well during times of pain, heartache, grief and loss. Professionals have spent years upon years studying bereavement, ways to help others, ways to classify normal vs. pathological grief behaviors. Clinicians are on board to provide therapy to those for grief/loss for clients. Books? Oh my goodness are there books on loss, grief under the self-help and psychology sections.

Labels are great at times for those who pick out soups, for those who love designer clothes, for those of us who want to get paid and need a diagnosis code for insurance and rely on the DSM-5 for something to put our "code' on...

However, those who are grieving are literal at times, they look to others in order to decide if they are "doing it right' in regards to grief, loss, and appearances in social settings. I remember being told by a woman once that she attended a 6 week support group for grief and received a certificate afterward, but thought she had flunked as she felt worst after attending!

People forget that theirs is the only and the worst pain of loss that there is, only because it is theirs. Each is unique, different. The path is walked with each individual at their own pace, each falling down to rest or from weariness at their own moment. They cannot be compared.

Those who are grieving get mixed messages on how quickly they should be through the process or if they should ever get through at all. We've heard and read the signs about those who lose spouses having a name afterward > they are widows or widowers; those who lose children have no name or title afterward, those who lose siblings have no name afterward, nor grandparents have no title afterward.

That is confusing to people who think that they are missing a label and now incomplete as a result.

Widows and widowers are not fond of their new found title or label... it usually takes them forever to change the names on check books, to only one; even when encouraged by others.

Parents who have a child regardless of the age to die; they do not need a new name or title.
Nor do siblings, nor grandparents. They will always be the parent, the sibling, the grandparent, the cousin, the friend of ______/.

We must be cautious that we do not delay pain of loss or grief by confusing people with labels, with wondering if they are "doing it right" with expectations.


1. Keep swimming/walking talking
2. Expect to miss the one who has died for as long as you live. Missing is a testament to loving someone who has been physically a part of your life and is no longer within arms reach or touch.
3. There is a time when you choose to walk into the light or dwell in the darkness of the pain of loss.
4. Everyone has a story; we each must decide not to become the story
5. YOU each have an untold story within you and the great opportunity to become the legacy of your loved one.
6. Sit with yourself and honestly ask this question: "what would he/she want me to be doing now?" would he/she want me miserable in my sorrow or living my life with gusto?
7. Say the name of your loved one, out loud, bring them up in conversations to others. That will give others permission to talk about the days that were greater than the moment that took their life.
8. LIfe is for living, it is short, it is fragile, it is Now. Work to live in NOW, while honoring the ancestors and those you have loved.
9. This is your path... your choice to heal.
10. Work hard to not compare your grief to that of someone else.

Finally; surround yourself with those things that bring you joy, make you smile, and work to laugh again, until it becomes familiar.  

Stand up for you and the memory of the ones who have gone before you! Surround yourself with those who laugh, who smile, who do not hold you and your grief to a time table or an hour glass.  Look for signs and connections, when you open your heart, you will be open to receive them.

Use caution when professionals and friends say;

"you should be over this by now, or what else are you doing to get better"... YOU are not sick, you are different now...

Choose to heal and to live your life walking through grief.

 Walk in beauty

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

though this comment might be somewhat late, I thought I'd tell you anyway ..
LOVE the new 'rules'..
Thank YOU..
you are the best !!
I would like to add another 'rule' to the list...
" look inward and say Thank you..
thank yourself and your loved ones for doing the best they know how .. love takes on many shades but love is priceless and full of thankfulness...
sign me, ♥