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During the recent loss of my mother, I’ve gotten an education in grief management. Talk about a school of hard knocks! Grief is something that everyone has in common. We all have either grieved for a loss, are grieving for a loss, or will grieve for a loss. It’s a cruel, unspeakably horrible tie that binds us all together. It’s also a time when you have to pay close attention to how you handle the situation – you have to handle it or it’ll handle you. I’ve also found that people react to another person’s grief in very unusual ways.
I’ve found that some people tend to expect you to be 100 percent back to normal (whatever that is) much sooner than you really will be. The average person seems to think that if the funeral is over and everyone’s gone home and settled back into their life, it means all’s done. Fat wrong.
It’s when life carries on that a lot of the pain really hits you. Because life IS going on, and it’s doing so without someone you loved. If you or someone you know has recently suffered a loss, keep in mind that when they say Time Heals, the time isn’t being measured on a clock. It’s a calendar and weeks don’t erase a lifetime – nor should they.
Here are a few of the lessons I’ve brought away from this Course of Life:
1. Take time to remember, pray, and cry. Take time to talk about your loved one. Sometimes people will try to change the subject – because they think that’s what’s best for you. But if you want to talk, talk.
2. Get extra rest. The body has been through an ordeal. Take unhurried baths, walks, naps, and showers. Sleep more than normal. Emotional traumal takes at least as much out of you as physical trauma.
3. Make goals for each day, but start off small. I went overboard a few days ago, writing WAY too many things down that I wanted to get done. When I wasn’t able to get to all of them, I felt overwhelmed and discouraged. Worst of all, I felt like a total failure….and needless to say, that was the last thing I needed.
4. Don’t dwell on the what ifs, for the love of all that’s Holy! It does nothing but pile on more turmoil and mental stress. I fell into this trap as well – “What if I had MADE her go to the doctor sooner,” “What if I had done this…. or that…” Take it from me, no good comes from any of it. You can’t go back and change life, and even if you could – who’s to say you wouldn’t just make things worse?
5. Be prepared for moments when tears will just come from nowhere. I’ll be driving along, singing with my Gwen Stefani CD (She has the better voice, but I think I’ve got her on volume), then I’ll see a certain flower mom liked or a house I know she’d have loved – then, bam, there come the waterworks. Sometimes they’re gone again by the time our song is over, sometimes they accompany me all the way home from the store. You just never know. Chalk it up to a “very bad moment” or a “very bad day” and keep going.
6. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel weak or wrong. They’re your emotions, it’s your loss – you know how you feel. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by a sweet family who understands. Usually, they’ll just cry along with me, other times they make me laugh and we just keep going on.
7. Do or enjoy something fun and distracting. Watch a movie, go for ice cream, watch American Idol and yell at the judges (What in the world are they smoking anyway?), read Emily Dickinson, buy a new top, buy new perfume, take a long walk in the park, plant flowers, watch a baseball game, bake cookies, eat cookies, wash the car….. I’ve done them all – sometimes all in the same day!
8. Never, ever, ever be afraid to talk to someone who’s grieving. You won’t upset them – they’re already there. Your concern will actually make things easier for them. Think of how you’d feel in their place.
Kindness is like a soothing balm on a very fresh and very bad wound. A sweet word, a big hug, a card, a cup of Chai Tea (Thanks, Michael!), flowers, a smile, etc – they all say, “I care” and sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
Make each moment count double,