There are many issues that impede our ability to heal from grief. Some of these are self-imposed and others are a result of how our society handles this subject.
1. Grief is a journey that is very difficult to travel. We are bombarded by expressions in our society that encourage us such as “move on”, “get closure”, “time will heal all wounds” and “life goes on”. None of these expressions acknowledges the pain that is felt at a time of significant loss. If we listen to these phrases it makes us feel that if we can’t get back to “normal” then there is something wrong with us. So we try to look normal which takes an unbelievable amount of energy. No wonder we are so tired!! The first thing to do is find people in our lives that acknowledge our pain and are willing to be there to listen. They don’t have to give advice. They just have to listen.
2. As we move through the weeks and months after a death you soon realize that different people in our lives give us different time frames to get over it. Who knows how people arbitrarily choose these different timeframes. Sometimes it feels like a longer period of time is acceptable depending on the relationship title you had with the deceased. Maybe you will receive understanding longer if it is your spouse or child. A cousin may not offer you the same duration of support. But maybe the cousin was like a sister to you and the loss is devastating to you. Don’t accept the arbitrary timeframes you feel are imposed on you. Grief follows it’s own path and almost always takes much more time than our culture will allow. You do find over time that the pain softens but it is a process that continues forever and does not have an end date!!
3. When we experience the death of someone we deeply care for we feel that the world will never be the same. In many ways that is true . The world is a different place and we have to figure out what that new world looks like which can be difficult. The pain and sadness we feel is certainly overwhelming at first but there are moments that we can experience laughter and some happiness over different life events. Feeling happy can also make us feel disloyal or guilty. It can feel wrong to us to be able to feel any emotion other than sadness at this difficult time. You are not disloyal!! As tough as it is, you have to let those positive emotions come through when you have them. Do not try to suppress them to leave you in a constant state of sadness. The path of grief has its ups and downs and will have for a long time. Part of that road is a combination of happiness and sadness that is experienced with different intensities and frequencies. It is something you have to get used to but the intensity will lessen in time.
These are only a few ways we keep ourselves from the work of healing. It is work and not easy to experience and move through the grief journey. Unfortunately we have the issues that have been mentioned here to inhibit our progress along this path. We have to be good to ourselves during this time.
In summary, there are no timeframes that you have to abide by during this process. They are either self-imposed or imposed by society and should be ignored no matter what the source. Grief is an uneven path that will ebb and flow and on no particular deadline.
We need to search out the people that will acknowledge our pain and allow us to share our feelings. This is not always easy but an important part of healing. Getting your feelings out is the key and you can also use journaling, blogging and other supportive resources to accomplish this task.
As you travel through this crazy time, you need to let the laughter and the happy moments come through. Having those positive feelings is not disloyal to your loved one. They want you to be happy but I suspect they would also want you to manage your grief in the healthiest way possible.
Jane Galbraith, BScN, R.N., is the author of “Baby Boomers Face Grief – Survival and Recovery”. She speaks to many employers and organizations including the Bereavement Ontario Network annual meeting and the Canadian Palliative Care and Hospice Conference in the fall of 2007.
Her book is available through the author directly at jane.galbraith.me.com and website, www.boomergrief.com or www.amazon.ca.
The book is also available in ebook format at most of the major ebook stores such as Kobo, iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Nobes,
© 2009 Jane Galbraith