Monday, November 12, 2012

A Message to the Grieving

They say that deaths come in threes.  And I thought that was true, when I heard of the third one last week.  Since then however I have heard of two more that are just beyond any sense of reason.  It just seems this week I have been surrounded by people I know and care about who have lost loved ones.  It  started with a friend my age who lost her dad to a heart attack, yesterday it was a running friend of mine who was on a morning run with her running partner, and the partner was hit by a car and killed.  Today my "might as well be an uncle" informed me of his daughter losing her baby during child birth.  I'm overwhelmed with sadness for these people, whom I care about, going through the pain I am so intimate with.

I realize that I empathize so much more with those who have unexpectedly lost loved ones than ever before.  I have experienced a significant amount of death in my family, but none of it compared to losing my husband.  Hearing of these deaths this week has broken my heart for those who are left behind.  I walked the path, and I know what is ahead of them.  I made mistakes along the journey, and had to learn a few things on my own to help me through the process.  I find myself this week sharing nuggets of truth, pieces of wisdom for the mourners. So I thought I should write them here.

1.  Words can't take away the hurt you feel in your heart right now.  But know that God will heal that hurt, fill the void and bring you peace again!

2.  You don't have to be strong.  Don't hold it in.  Let it out. Cry. Scream. Yell.  Do what you need to.  You don't have to be strong.  Look around, there is someone being strong for you to lean on, but now isn't your time.

3.  Death happens.  It isn't fair. It doesn't make sense. And its not your fault.  Don't take the bait of guilt.  Its not your fault.

4.  Being grateful doesn't negate the pain you feel, or invalidate the life of your loved one. Don't feel bad for being glad you are alive.  Its okay to see the good in the midst of a horrible situation.  Its a good thing.  Don't feel bad for doing it.

5.  For those supporting a loved one who has suffered extreme loss... here is a word of caution.  They may be some what of an emotional wreck, now, in two weeks and probably in two months.  They will not have their right senses about them, and may not make the best decisions.  Protect them.  Help them. Look over their shoulder.  The old saying is true, don't make any major decisions for 6 months... and I'll add on even if they were already planned. I did some really stupid, really really stupid things, within months after losing my husband.  Looking back I wish someone who loved me would have guarded me more, and helped me to avoid some of them.

I was hurt. I was broken. I was lost.  But God healed that hurt, pain, and confusion.  It took time, and I'm grateful for the process I went through to heal stronger than I was before.  You will be stronger. I know that means nothing to you now, but it needs to be said. Let the grief process work through you in a healthy way.  When you feel an emotion, work it out.  But don't camp there either.  There is a healthy curve, you feel the emotion building, you give in to and it releases.  Listen to and look for the release.  When it comes, move on.  Don't camp there!

 Don't blame yourself, even if it seems like you should.  I'm grateful I never blamed myself for his death.  I didn't know if he killed himself because of the divorce, but I knew that I was not responsible for any actions beyond my own.  I didn't blame myself.   And I'm glad I didn't because a year and half after his death I learned of a heart condition, and that it more than likely was the killer.  How grateful I am I didn't destroy myself with unnecessary guilt for 18 months, then have to work out of that in addition to everything else.

Finally, sometimes there are lights in the midst of the darkness.  Don't ever feel bad for seeing them.  It doesn't mean you aren't mourning the loss, or that you don't love the person who passed away.  I loved Jonathan.  I truly did.  But his death set us all free.  He was bound in multiple addictions, and quickly destroying his life, and by association ours.  It was healthy for me to recognize that.  It didn't mean I didn't mourn.  It didn't mean I didn't love.  It didn't mean I was insensitive.  I was honest.  And to heal properly you need to be honest.  So pay attention to the lights, find things to be grateful for. It's okay.  Its healthy.  And your soul needs it.