ON MY MIND: When it’s time to grieve …

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

We are all faced with how to help someone who is grieving. Most of us have also had to face grief ourselves over someone we loved. What to do? What to say? What to not do or say? Here are answers from those who know. This will be in two parts. This part will focus on nuggets of advice for the griever. Next time I will focus on ways others can help. I am not using names but will put quotes around what they said.

The minute someone dies, someone else’s life changes instantly. There is no such thing as pre-grieving. Grief isn’t intellectual. What we know in our brain, we don’t necessarily know in our heart. Grief is in our heart.

Let’s begin with the important fact that every loss is unique and personal. “There are no rules on how to grieve or how long to grieve. Some get rid of the loved one’s clothes immediately, others never do. Both are OK.”

“Everything reminds me of them, so I can’t get away from it. But I guess I don’t want to. This too shall pass!”

“I don’t like the term ‘getting over it.’ I don’t want to. I have gotten on with my life, but I’ll never get over losing them. For a couple of years, I gave myself permission to have a day, when I needed it, to just wallow in my grief. Then I would force myself to get on with my life.”

“Crying a lot helped wash my soul.”

“Memories pop into your consciousness at the sound, sight or smell of something and you just have to let the waves wash over you.”

“Respect your grieving journey. Congratulate yourself on victories. None are too small.”

“Read, read, read. Others have gone before you and their experiences can help. Write, even if you’re not a writer, write it out. You will cry, but that’s okay. Put it all on paper.”

“Don’t isolate yourself. Accept invitations, even when you don’t feel like it. Accept every offer of kindness.”

“Keep moving. Keep busy. Try to stay positive. I found I didn’t get invited to couple things anymore so I organized new things. Even though I no longer entertain with couples, I still entertain.”

“I lined my bed with pillows so I didn’t roll over into empty space. I took a sleep aid for months. The sleep helped me heal.”

At first, shock buffers you and helps you cope. Then denial sets in. It may not make sense, but it makes sense at the time. We have to walk through it into reality.

At about three months, people will often grieve hard. It consumes them. Normal routines are difficult to get accomplished. At six to seven months, the loss feels desperately real. Hard reality sets in.

My aunt said, “For months,  the visitors and things to do gave me no time to fall apart. I told everyone I was fine, which I was, but then the loneliness caught up with me and it was another phase.”

She also said a beautiful thing I want to share with you: “Those precious hospice nurses are like angels outside the door of heaven.”

Isn’t that a comforting description?

“Talk. Talk to different people. You will be surprised at who can help you heal. Don’t be upset if it’s not who you were expecting.” “When you just can’t be alone, call someone. I also found that getting a pet was wonderfully healing!”

“If you or someone else feels it is time, get help.” There are grief support groups for parents, for widowers, for all. One mother shared that no one had felt her pain like the strangers she met at the grieving parent’s support group. They, alone, truly understood.

Of course, the foundation to grieve well is built throughout our lives with our faith. If we believe the promises of our faith, we know that death is not final. If we have built a strong relationship with God, we can rest in that peace and call out to Him in our pain.

This reminds me of the beautiful “Footprints in the sand” prayer. “I love you and I would never leave you during your times of trial and suffering. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

When we have faith, we are never alone.

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

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