“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” (Winnie the Pooh) It’s been a rough year and it’s only the end of March!
Looking back to the last 12 months, it has indeed been hard with the number of friends lost. There has also been so much good (people on the streets standing up to injustice, my son’s marriage and the announcement of our first grandchild, new friends made, another year living in the same home. … Cambria as a community, good things all).
But, after two memorials in one day for two people I’ve had the pleasure, honor and privilege of calling “dear friends” for so many years preceded merely weeks before by another, I’m tired. I realize I am nearing an age where this will happen with more frequency but, youngsters and people my own age (50s) … I’m tired. How do people cope with it? Some seem “stronger” than others, but that really is not a fair assessment to make as we all deal with it differently at different times. And it’s not just loss of life but of homes, jobs or a way of life that can cause grief.
A number of years ago, I had a conversation at a women’s retreat with someone who’d worked with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote the proverbial book on grief (“On Death and Dying”) and what to expect. She was a little miffed that people took it as the bible, of sorts, on the subject, saying that not everybody will feel all these things, feel them in order, or feel them soon after a loss! People will go back and forth, skip some “expected” emotion altogether or find it well up within on an anniversary or upon hearing a certain song. There is no “normal” way to grieve.
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I’ve a friend now who does grief counseling, and I perused several of her books and manuals while I was house-sitting for her recently. Denial, anger, guilt (“what if I did so-and-so/ if only I…), depression, confusion, shock, despair, acceptance- and with the last, you start regaining your life. One may never stop missing or yearning for someone or something, but when you rediscover the joys you’ve always had, or reawaken to the blessings around you, you begin to find your rhythm again. Time doesn’t heal all wounds but it does make them more bearable, reshapes them.
(It seems like I’ve written about all this too many times, but I hope you’ll bear with me once more, as I remind myself of all of this.) Finding a trusted counselor or spiritual adviser can be so very helpful. Even if you feel like you are coping, it may surprise you what you can find hidden. I’ve known several people in my life who, years after losing a parent or spouse or child, discovered unresolved sorrow or anger or other emotion. When they finally recognized that, a huge burden was lifted.
“We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world — the company of those who have known suffering.” (Helen Keller)
One of the most important steps to take in dealing with grief is taking care of yourself. That self-care may begin by talking about it to close friends or a group of others going through the same experience. Diane DeMarco holds a grief support group on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 11 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Eton Drive here in Cambria. She wrote a lovely article on these meetings, which you can still view online. (https://bit.ly/2pIWnSH) As Diane stated in her piece, “The subject of death is not exactly one you overhear at the coffee shops or ping pong circles. As a matter of fact, it is still one of the most unmentionable subjects to be raised in our culture. Death happens, to every single one of us without exception. Yet, we like to pretend it doesn’t.”
What else do the books and advisers say? Exercise. At least walk around the block, get some movement and flow back into your body and, therefore, your spirit. Meditate. Return to your hobbies or take a class or volunteer for something that brings you fulfillment. Consider the pursuit of these new passions as the “adventure” of the healing process, part of the journey and in some ways, honoring the love you felt by keeping that love alive in your actions.
Perhaps most importantly, give yourself time. After this month, yeah, that’s a lot to process and I know the spouses and close family of the ones we’ve lost are really “going through it.” Thank goodness for all the love we have here to give one another. May it continue to be ever so.
“It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly bloomed or a letter slips from a drawer … and everything collapses.” (Colette)
And, that is OK.
Some lovely meditations I found: