What I've Learnt About Grief
My father passed away last April from cancer. He would have been 70 on the 8th January. Here's what I've learnt about grief in the past year...
First of all, everyone deals with grief differently, and every reaction is valid. Some need to be in the middle of it, some stay at the periphery. But whatever way, there needs to come a time when dwelling on grief turns to dwelling on memories.
Be careful that your lasting memory of someone isn't as they were in their last weeks or month, affected by illness. A life is so much more than the end. Make sure all of it is celebrated and cherished.
A grave is a marker, but it's not a replacement. It's alright to honour them, but let the person remain alive in your own spirit, not tended to in a plot.
Take plenty of photos of your loved ones while you can. It's a wonderful feeling to look at a photo and see the person you're missing smile at you again.
Talk about your grief. It's really hard to put into words sometimes and express your numbness, but even just to admit that their death is on your mind is enough. Recognising sadness helps avoid being overwhelmed by it.
It is okay to be sad and upset. No one expects you to be a rock. Sadness is something you learn to bring with you, not an anchor that weighs you down and traps you.
Take a moment when required to recognise your achievements, and what has happened to you since the bereavement. Know that your loved one would be proud of you.
Experiencing one death doesn't make it easier to deal with another, or when someone is ill. Just do what you can at the time, be there for others if you can, and let others be there for you.
Everyone told me the first year is the hardest - the first Christmas, first birthday, first anniversary. I've yet to experience all of this, and everyone finds their own way, but also trust in the experience of others.
If you've lost one parent, and the other is still alive, look out for them. Give love and support, but also give them space to grieve. And most of all, don't be afraid to talk about the loss shared.
It's a challenge to deal with your own thoughts and emotions. Remember, your grief is shared by others, so share your memories and stories, your hard times too when the loss is felt the most. Don't just grin and bear it. And if anyone tells you not to show your feelings, not to be open, know that it their their own feelings they cannot deal with, not yours. Grief needs to be expressed, and it cannot be denied. Don't be ashamed of your grief. Tell there be tears.
One more thought: there really aren't any right words to say to someone on the event of a death. But don't let that stop you from saying something. And for the bereavement, recognise that those people who care for you really wish they did have the right words.
by Colin Dardis