So in doing my research for this blog post I recognized that there are a lot of lists similar to the one I’m about to write. However, I’m of the opinion that the more lists we have, the more information we have to help shift our thoughts on grief and the different ways we can handle grief culturally. Here goes, I wish I knew…..
- People will say silly things: While there are some who just don’t “get” grief. I like to think that most people have good intentions and mean well but just don’t know whats appropriate or helpful when it comes to discussing grief with the bereaved. The uniqueness of grief can make it difficult to discuss but this is where the importance of our voices come into play. While the things others say may piss us off, exhaust us, or hurt us; as grievers we must make a conscious effort to gently let people know when something they’ve said or done is unhelpful or hurtful. I’ve experienced the frustration and said to myself many times “they should know better” but the fact of the matter is that most people just don’t. They don’t know better because we’ve all been living in a culture where disengaging from our loved one after their death is “normal”, the classic “just move on already” approach. That is the expectation. And it’s no ones fault. I know what you’re thinking, “I didn’t ask for this responsibility” and I’m with you, I understand, but if we don’t start vocalizing what’s ok and what’s not; how will we ever have honest discussions? How will our culture surrounding grief ever shift without our voices guiding it gently in the right direction?
- Grief is messy: I’ve touched on the unpredictable packaging of grief response here . Anyone who is living in grief knows that there is little structure in navigating your way through the process. Much of it is trial and error, correcting and changing things along the way. What we’ve been taught about grief is that there are “stages” we all go through. While there is truth to the idea that we go through stages it isn’t always this clear cut. There is a whole boat load of other thoughts /emotions/challenges that come with grief that aren’t part of the stages we’ve previously learned about.
- Self care is a necessity : Self care is so often over looked when it comes to grief. It can also be the biggest challenge for grievers. You may not feel like eating and if you do it’s probably a cheesesteak and not a salad. You may find it hard to sleep through the night or notice that all you want to do is sleep. You may not have the energy to get to the gym. You may not feel up to socializing and spending time with others. All of this is valid and worthy of acknowledging throughout our process in grief. At the same time, we have to try our hardest keep up with self- care. The things that were so easy to do before our loss. Sometimes half the battle is just getting past the idea that something that was once enjoyable or helpful to us is now such a task. Making self- care a priority while experiencing a loss is hard work and also a necessity.
- The importance of utilizing resources: It’s an exhausting task to identify and utilize resources while in the midst of grief. The vulnerability that grief creates can feel unbearable and overwhelming at times, and reaching out for support can feel uncomfortable and terrifying. This creates lots of barriers to putting ourselves out there with others or accessing the resources that exist. Trying out resources whether it be individual or group therapy, online group chats, conferences/seminars or just reading books about grief can all be very helpful. Finding what fits and what is comfortable for you is important, knowing that there are others out there that are experiencing what you are can be the most helpful when coping with our grief.
- Your self image & identity change: This is especially true with the loss of a family member but can also happen within other experiences of loss. The things you once knew to be true about yourself suddenly change and morph. The you before the loss and the you after the loss are totally different people and it can be a VERY scary experience. An experience that not only changes our ideas about self but also about other people and the world around us.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint: Grief is a long journey that you’ll experience for the rest of your life. There won’t ever be a time you don’t miss your loved one or wish they were there for the little and big moments in your life. The process of grieving is constantly changing as we grow and evolve as individuals. Making space in our life for our grief is one of the kindest things we can do for ourselves. ‘Cause it ain’t goin’ anywhere and thats ok!
- Having a good day is ok: Having a good day does NOT mean you’re in some way betraying the person you’ve lost. It’s ok for you to continue experiencing diffrent emotions and reminding yourself that although you may not feel like it in the middle of grief; you are still human. There will still be happy moments, they may be fleeting or few and far between but they will come and when they do we can give ourselves permission to enjoy them.
- Having a bad day is ok: Having a bad day does NOT mean you’re betraying the person you’ve lost or that you’re “stuck” in your grief. Again, it’s ok and normal for you to continue experiencing a range of human emotions because you are human. The guilt we can experience toward good or bad days will pop up and it’s normal. There is a significant need to be kind to ourselves by normalizing our emotions; no matter which way they swing!
- Vulnerable is also strong: Vulnerability breeds growth and change. Vulnerability IS the new strong. Ask Brene Brown if you don’t believe me. When we hear “you’re so strong I don’t know how you do it”. We often think it’s because people see us managing our grief day to day, getting up, living life but we have to do those things, we don’t have a choice and its tough. We don’t always feel strong doing the day to day grind. So finding the safe people we can be vulnerable with is important. Breaking down into an ugly cry is important. Identifying and verbalizing our triggers to our grief is important. There is just as much strength in the vulnerability of grief. There is power there that often goes unharnessed and untouched.
- The happy things might also be sad: The happy life events, graduating, getting married, birthdays, holidays, marriage, having children. The things our loved ones are supposed to be present for become bittersweet. The grief runs parallel to our happiness and joy. We can find ways to incorporate them into these happy moments but there is no way to replace their actual physical presence and this will be difficult to navigate for the rest of our time without our loved one.
I plan to continue expanding and re-visiting these ten topics in future posts. I’d love to hear what you wish you’d known about grief. Leave a comment below with your thoughts or ideas about this. Check back in for more. Thanks for reading and #grieveon !