This blog on grieving is as much for me as it is for my readers. The grieving process isn’t easy, but it is a natural response to loss.
My father passed last week after battling prostate cancer that metastasized to bone and liver cancer. He handled dying the way he lived his life. He got up each day without complaint and pushed himself to enjoy the day. My sisters and I took turns staying with my parents the last six months of my dad’s life, and I the blessing of staying straight through the final nine weeks. Spending that time both was the greatest gift I could give and receive. I have no regrets and no guilt. I highly recommend it to everyone who can find a way to do it. It is time you can never get back once lost. You will never be sorry you spent it that way.
I am home recovering from being a caretaker, witnessing my Dad’s ending and picking up my life again. I had never lost anyone to death before and I am surprised how different it is than my divorce, which was full of drama and pain. By comparison, this is quiet and peaceful. I am mindful that what I feel is partially due to the time I spent with my father as his days wound down, anticipating grief and death at the age of 94 after living as full life as can be expected.
I know each of our situations is different and how we handle loss varies. It can overwhelm. Many difficult and unexpected emotions can arise, from shock to anger to disbelief to guilt and profound sadness.
I have a close friend who when my dad died discovered that her boyfriend betrayed her, triggering an abrupt break up. Her loss is full of anger and shock and sadness. Her recovery is different than mine and brings back thoughts of the pain of my divorce.
Learning to cope with the loss of someone or something is one of life’s biggest challenges. There is no normal way to grieve. There is no set time limit on your grief. And no one should tell you when you should move on.
There are typically five stages of grief, although not all apply to everyone.
- Denial allows us to minimize the overwhelming pain of loss, by slowing the process down and acting as a filter for our emotions.
- Anger is common after a loss. Adjusting to the new reality can be frustrating and cause extreme emotional discomfort. It also stresses the immune system, placing a premium on taking extra care of your health during this time.
- Bargaining is common, a willingness to do almost anything to get out of pain. “I promise to do this if only that.” Trying to recall things we did or said, or we might have done differently is common during this stage.
- Depression usually sets in as thoughts calm down and the emotional fog clears, allowing us a better view of the bare reality of our situation. The loss feels more present and unavoidable.
- Acceptance is commonly the last stage. It doesn’t mean the absence of the pain of loss. Rather it is the ability to stop resisting the reality of the situation and/or to stop struggling to recreate things to be other than what they are. Acceptance can be the starting point for moving on and creating a new reality.
So how can you cope with your loss?
An essential part of the mental and physical healing process is sharing whatever feelings you have, instead of keeping them bottled up. Hiring a Healing Your Heart Coach (which I am) or finding a support group or counselor will aid the process. Journaling or writing letters just for you is a great outlet. Getting out in nature, listening to music, doing something creative, are all ways to help manage the pain.
Have compassion for yourself. Practice patience and selfcare. Massages and yoga and meditation all combat stress and anxiety. My favorite is getting out in nature and communing with the universe.
Know that the universe supports you. Everything happens for a reason and having faith that the universe has your back is paramount.
Don’t feel bad about having fun. Watching a movie, reading a book, socializing and resuming other activities you enjoyed before your loss, are healthy. Take a break from focusing on grief.
There are many lessons to learn. Dig deep within yourself to see how you are dealing with your grief. What is the universe teaching you? Use your life as a laboratory to learn more about yourself. In loss there is growth. I am doing all of these things as I settle back in to my new normal. I feel myself getting stressed over little things and know that I need more time to be quiet and heal. I set boundaries for how much I can take on right now, because I see how easily overwhelm sets in. I am a work in progress, and I hope I can offer help to you as I help myself.
I wrote this blog and later the same day, I went to synagogue for Yizkur which is the service on Yom Kippur that honors those who have passed. I read this poem in a supplement to the prayer books they added to the service. I wanted to share it here.
Life Will Break You-Louise Erdrich
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
On Monday the 14th I am hosting a webinar on Navigating Grief. I invite you to join me at: https://nancypickard.synduit.com/WBNG0001
Sending love and light,