Note to reader:
In 2003 I began the practice of using a 3 ring binder to save the highlights of that year-photos, good articles, personal correspondence, etc. I was thumbing through my 2004 journal this past Sunday night and came across the following piece by Carole J Dyck R.N . She writes to parents who are dealing with the loss of a child, although I think what she says could apply to other times of grief as well. Wanted to pass it on as a future resource. DM
The use of the word “closure” is often heard in public circles or in the media especially after a tragedy and implies finality. The word comes with the sense that there will be a time, day, or event like a funeral that marks when a grieving person will be “healed” or “over it”, as though it were a disease and you could magically take a pill to be cured. There is an expectation that when the eulogies are said and the casseroles are gone, the grief somehow magically goes away. The truth is that…the death of a loved one changes our lives forever, and we will never truly “be over it.” Yes, we will not have the intensity of the pain and sorrow we had at the beginning of our grief. We will go on with life and find new normal for us, but live will never be as it was before the death, and we will never be fully “healed.” Sometimes those around us have attempted to comfort us by pointing to deadlines, replacements, or “at leasts.” We have heard it said,”At least you have other kids,” or “You can have another baby,” or “hasn’t it been 6 months?” Many see “comfort giving” as a short-term support effort, and soon we will be “over it” as we are kept busy returning to the tasks of daily living and focusing on our blessings. These comments hurt rather than provide the comfort they are meant to provide. Grief follows no plan, stages, timetable formula, or schedule. There are no road maps; there are no absolutes.
We learn….that everyone grieves differently. Grief is like being lost. The familiar things we relied on to live each day are gone. We must find new anchors or stabilisers along the way and learn a new way of relating to the world and people around us….Grief is all consuming, distorts reality, and we begin to mark our time in “before or after our loved one died.” No one can hurry the process of grief, no one can do it for us. Not even our spouses, parents or other children can help us in those early days. The truth is that when our grief is new, we feel exhausted physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We barely have enough energy to breath. We feel as though we have no control over our lives anymore, nor do we care. We realise on some level we are helpless.
All of these feelings are normal and part of the grieving process. And yes, we also need to realise that it is a process- a very long gradual and difficult process. Time does not heal all wounds, but time softens the intensity of the grief. What helps is finding those who will listen with their hearts and give us hope and understanding. Those who will spend hours, days and months with us as we tell our story over and over so we can somehow believe it ourselves. What helps is to surround ourselves with those patient people and meaningful activities that comfort and support.
Gradually, the cold darkness of grief beings to give way to the warmth of the memories, acceptance, purpose and reinvestment in life. We learn to speak of our loved one without crying and begin to accept that whatever time we had with him or her, we would have taken even if just but a moment. We learn that grief is the price we pay for loving our child or sibling so much, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Our relationships with family, friends and yes, even God can be strengthened or challenged as we look for new ways to connect with them. We may lose old friends who really don’t understand. We learn that problems life are not overwhelming. We are handling the worst thing that can happen to us, what else can happen? We learn to more deeply cherish those we love. We help others in grief without batting an eye. Sometimes we pickup “gifts” along the way by becoming more caring, compassionate toward others, and appreciative for what is important in life. New strengths can develop as we find our new selves along the way. Life will be different as we learn to cope, but still have meaning.
For those of you who are new in your loss, we hope that you will continue to share your sorrow with us and learn from those further ahead on the path of grief. Someday it won’t hurt as much as it does now, and you won’t always feel “this elephant on your chest.” We encourage you to ask the family and friends around you for what you need and tell them when their expectations for you are too high. We hope you will explain to them that your grief is not on a timetable and will probably not ever reach what society calls “closure.” Explain to them that you will always miss your loved one, but you will learn to live with a broken heart. We hope you will inform them that the mention of your loved ones name is music to your ears and it’s okay to talk about him or her.
Written by Carole J Dyck R.N.
Thoughts, comments, questions?