Losing my grandfather, father, and stepfather within the span of 9 months to cancer has probably been the hardest thing I have had to face in my entire life. As an adult, I am no stranger to death. However, any loved ones I had previously lost did nothing to prepare me for these three sudden, ugly deaths of loved ones I held so dear. As a Christian, I strongly believe that this life is only the beginning and that God has a loving plan for all of us. However, these three horrible, seemingly senseless deaths left me wondering why and fighting to bring some reason and normalcy back into my world. Although I may never understand why these deaths had to occur in such a horrific manner or why my family had to lose them all so suddenly, so close together, I wish to share a few things I’ve learned about grieving in hopes I may help some of you through this often difficult but all too real part of life.
Number 1: No Two People Grieve Alike
We are all human and thus all experience many of the same emotions and reactions to the world around us. However, despite our similarities, we come in countless wonderful variations, so why should we all grieve in the same manner? It is simply inconceivable that with such variety among individuals that similar deaths, even the same deaths, will affect us in exactly the same way. Yet, amazingly I know people who automatically assume this to be true, and you may very well encounter similar individuals as well. Since it could be impossible to change such erroneous assumptions in others, it is important to stay focused on your own feelings and preconceptions. Remind yourself that simply because someone else experiences–or fails to experience– certain things, it does not automatically make it normal for you. And always remember that when and in what manners you begin expressing your grief often has little relation to how the death has affected you or to what degree you cared for the person. Some individuals initially experience a large amount of shock or denial and/or cope best during the worst parts of the grieving process by distancing themselves from the source of their pain. Consequently, failing to cry or not immediately feeling sorrow after the loss of a loved one most likely is your body’s way of coping and a normal, legitimate part of your individual grieving process.
Number 2: There Isn’t An Order To Grieving
After losing my loved ones so close together and so tragically, this became extremely clear. At times, I would feel numb and simply operate in autopilot, acting as though nothing had happened. During other moments, I would become unbearably angry or grief stricken, unable to focus on anything but these tragic deaths. There were nights when I could sleep peacefully for hours, while others when I could not sleep a single second. One moment, I would find myself clinging to the things which reminded me of my loved ones. However, other moments even a soda or a spare key could spiral me into the deepest depths of despair. Ultimately, as we learn to come to terms with the passing of loved ones, we have good days and bad. Just when we think we are beyond the hardest parts, something occurs that sends us back to the heart of our pain. But as long as we can see progress in our daily battle with sorrow, no matter how many times we revisit the darkest places of grieving, we can rest assured that one day we will find the healing we seek.
Number 3: Accepting Help Doesn’t Make Us Weak
In the hours, weeks, and even months after a death, there may be times when we feel we can’t face life alone and need a caring ear or helping hand. When those moments surface, don’t hesitate to seek the support of others. A strong support system is essential to getting past grief and in no way means that you are weak or unable to properly cope. Whether it is allowing a friend to help with daily chores or confiding in a loved one when you are bombarded with a million emotions at once, receiving support and understanding will make the grieving process easier. Also, don’t be afraid to seek a professional grief counselor or a support group. There are individuals out there who have been through similar situations and who are eager to help you. They have faced the darkest of moments and yet have found healing and renewed hope. Thus, they can understand whatever you are experiencing and help you along your own path to healing and a brighter tomorrow.
I encourage you to explore the vast resources the Internet has to offer concerning grief. Familiarize yourself with the grieving process and find support groups in your area. Although you may feel there is no hope for tomorrow, I am personally here as a witness that there indeed is hope and it is waiting right around the corner. Your journey may be hard and will take time and effort, but don’t give up. Surround yourself with the support of friends and family and hold fast to the beautiful memories that your departed loved ones have left behind. And live life to the fullest, cherishing even the simplest of daily blessings.