As many of you know I lost my father just over a month ago. It has been a difficult time, but it’s also been kind of amazing. There has been so much compassion, so much rest, and so so much to learn. I’m only beginning to be able to give words to the lessons of loss. I share them with you to offer some small consolation if you foresee or have already experienced your own great loss. There are life lessons to learn, as gently and slowly as needed, even in this difficult time.
- Grief will not be denied. The wording on this one is from my friend Dixie St. John who just happened to post it on FB about a week after my father’s passing. Resistance to grief is futile friends. There is no shelving grief, setting it aside, saving it for a rainy day, stuffing it. You might manage it, but if you insist on refusing your grief, it will wreak havoc. Grief will not be denied.
- Grief is extremely physical. I slept. I ate. I didn’t eat. I wanted a long shower. I wanted to be still. I wanted to run very fast and then do absolutely nothing. The task of grieving uses physical energy. Most people who are grieving need more sleep than they usually do. The immune system doesn’t work as well as usual, so getting that sleep is critical. There are actually studies indicating that there is a greater risk of a variety of health problems when we are grieving. Treat your body with kindness. It’s working hard.
- Grief can strip away what’s not important. If you’re like me, grieving will make it abundantly clear what you really care about in the world because everything else will fall away. Really, for me everything fell away for a little while and it seems to be returning in the order in which I cherish it. Pay attention. If you’re at all confused about what your priorities are and what needs your attention, grief will clear that stuff up for you real quick.
- Grief can teach you to ask for help if you let it. You will have to let it. It’s your choice.
- Saying no is allowed, often necessary, and doesn’t require follow-up or an explanation.
- Grief is best shared with others who are grieving. Relaxing while grieving is easiest for me either by myself or with people who are also grieving. There’s so much I don’t have to explain. There’s so much I don’t need to worry about. Mutual comfort, distraction, and the warmth of the bond.
- People want to help you but they don’t know what to do. People become tender footed around those who are grieving. They want to be sure that the help they offer is the help you want. So they make general offers. “Let me know how I can help.” They mean it. Believe that they mean it. If you are comfortable, let someone know what would be helpful. It’s okay to let someone make your life easier.
- People want to say something loving/kind/meaningful but WILL get it wrong. You can choose what you hear. I began to interpret all the things people said after my father’s death as “I love you. I care that you are hurting.” Everything that was said helped when I listened through those ears, the ears of my heart.
- Many decisions can be made solely on the basis of how you feel. After my Dad’s death a pervasive fog set in and yet I made decisions, even if that decision was to say to someone else: “You pick. I can’t care about that right now,” and to genuinely release the topic, because I didn’t really care about it. I followed my feelings on eating, sleeping, resting, skipping group activities, just about everything and it helped to just let myself follow how I felt.
- You can and will survive the loss of those you hold most dear; it will be easier if you allow the love and care of those around you to shore you up. It will also be easier, in the long run, if you allow your sadness, your anger, your relief or whatever you are feeling to be exactly what it is whenever it is happening. You have a right to feel your loss and only you get to decide when you are done.
My wish for you is that your own lessons are gently offered and lovingly received. Be gentle with yourselves.