To be honest with you, I had no idea what I was going to write my first blog for the foundation about. But then it dawned on me that my due date for my post was the 20th Anniversary of my grandmother's passing. It was like the light came through the clouds and smacked me right in the face.
Most people know what grief is. Right? I mean there is a dictionary definition and EVERY single person will be textbook perfect when grieving. But the reality is each and every person grieves differently. And I am not just talking about grief for loved ones we have lost. Sometimes it is possible to grieve for those still living. Grief includes a variety of feelings that go along with the process of moving on from a significant change or loss.
Who are we to judge how someone grieves? I get it, no one wants to see someone sitting in their room crying for months with no interaction because they can’t get over the loss of their loved one. However, our courtesy to those we love is to be patient and understanding. And what about the grief of a breakup or no longer being friends with a longtime pal? We shouldn't disregard it just because no actual “loss” has been had .
I have a dear lifelong friend that lost her mother a couple years ago to her battle with cancer. I can't even imagine the pain that feels like. My friend got a tattoo in memory, kept some of her mothers things and merely has had to go on with “normal” life. She loves hearing stories of her mom. It doesn't make her mad to bring her wonderful mother up. In fact, she would prefer to hear all the things. She is handling the “new normal” quite well. Sure she is still sad or mad about it from time to time, but she has learned to live with the grief in other ways.
When I lost my grandmother, it was more of a denial stage for me. I knew it was coming, I knew she was no longer in pain. It was like a lie and she would be over next week. The blanket she made me when I was tiny is a source of comfort for me. I have a picture of her by my bed and talk to her when I really need to hear her thoughts or her laugh. When I see a bluebird, I know it is her. I think of her everytime I make pot roast and mashed potatoes. In the 20 years without her, this is how I cope.
Then there is the grief of someone who is still living. Someone who really, if circumstances were different, would still be in your life. Say you have been friends with someone for over 10 years! Family gatherings together, kids grow up together and pretty much when you plan something, you ALL are invited. Then one day it stops. No reason, nothing done to one another. It all just stops. I can tell you the first stage of grief I have had with this is confusion, followed by anger and then sadness of all those great memories we shared. People have said that the hardest person to grieve is one that is still living. Maybe that is true, but for me, either way is hard.
Oftentimes someone passes and we do the funeral or memorial and that is supposed to be a closure. Close that book and move on. You breakup with your long time partner, they move out and BAM things are perfect again. Seems pretty cut and dry right? If only it was that simple. There are so many emotions and steps that come after this. What is my new normal SUPPOSE to look like? More than likely the grief of losing a friendship or having a breakup is going to be healed a lot faster than having someone you know and love die. But nonetheless as an outsider looking in on someone who is going through grief, we only have one job. That is to make sure we allow them time. Validate their feelings with them. Cry with them, laugh with them or maybe sit quietly with them while they stare out the window. Each person's heart is different. They handle life differently. Not one individual is going to grieve or go through experiences the same as the next. And that is OK. Sure there are stages of grief and a textbook definition of what it SHOULD look like. But feelings and experiences can’t be forced. We can’t snap our fingers and bring people back to life. We can’t make all the pain of the past cure anything overnight. In a perfect world this would happen.
The most important thing to remember about grief is this. There is no time limit or right way. Even if it has been 2 weeks or 20 years. The pain is still very valid, the anger, the confusion. It is all still valid. The only hope is that it can get easier in time. If you know someone going through any form of grief, check on them. Even if you are just saying hi to them. That small gesture could make all the difference to them. Don’t be afraid to talk about their loved one. Helping them understand that their loss is important and you are there, can make a gloomy day seem bright enough to continue on.
“It’s hard to turn the page when you know someone won’t be in the next chapter. But the story must go on.”- Unknown