Feb 26, 2008

Thoughts on grief

Had a long txt conversation with a young(ish) relative this evening who is still devastated by my Mum's death. Poor wee thing. We are of course all still missing Mum every day, but J has not got even a basic understanding of how to process death or how to 'do' grief. At 18, this is not terribly surprising, but what is tragic is that I suspect that this txt conversation we have had (more than 3 months after Mum passed away) is the only time she's talked about Mum since then. To anyone.

So here are my thoughts on processing grief and living with loss.

1. Let yourself feel sad. You feel sad. That's okay - you have a darned good reason to feel sad. Just go with it for now - it's easier to go with a wave of grief when it comes that to fight it down and struggle on with a happy face. The happy face doesn't work, and you just end up grumpy/nasty/stressed/sick. And the bad feelings last for longer. A thoroughly good cry can leave you feeling drained and exhausted but clean. If people ask how you are, you are allowed to say "sad today", or "not too bad today", or "um, I have good days and bad days" or whatever you feel like.

2. Be kind to yourself. It's not always easy to know what is the best thing to do. Don't go beating yourself up for things you woulda/coulda/shoulda done. You did what you were able to do at the time. Be as nice to yourself as you would be to your best friend or to your favourite pet when they are hurting. The person who you miss knows that you love them, and forgives you (if there is in fact anything to forgive). Forgive yourself.

3. Talk about her. If you want to talk about the person, find someone who will listen. If that seems too hard at first, or if you don't have anyone you trust that much, then try writing a letter. Remember the good things about the person, her laugh, her talent at baking desserts, her cuddles, her wise advice, her unconditional love. And the funny things. And even the things that really annoyed you - they are all memories to treasure, and all part of making peace with her death. Also, there will be times when you don't feel like talking, or people who you don't want to talk to. That's fine too, you're allowed to say "thanks, but I just don't feel like talking about it just now - I'll let you know if I do", and leave it at that.

4. Realise that it won't be quick and it won't be easy. We "walk through the valley of the shadow of death", not 'run' or 'skip'. These things take time and there are no shortcuts. On the other hand, we don't 'wallow' or 'set up camp' in the valley of the shadow either. Always be looking forward and know that the shadow will lift a little. I should say here, that walking through the valley of the shadow is always better if you have Divine assistance - do ask Jesus for help! Also, watch for events that you know will make you miss her more - be prepared to be kind to yourself around those (Christmas, birthdays, holiday times...) and take time out to have a good cry at those times.

5. Find ways to honour her memory. Go to the cemetery if you are close enough. Say a prayer for her every night. Plant a bush. Wear some jewelery of hers or that somehow reminds you of her. My brother got another tattoo. Have a special christmas ornament just for her. Make some time on birthdays to include her memory in the day. These rituals are important to those of us left behind - they help us to weave her death into our every-day lives and become more at home with it.

6. When you feel sad, take time out to have a cuddle - with a toy or a kind and gentle person, or something. My personal choice at the moment is either Merl or a big brightly coloured cardigan that Mum knitted and wore constantly. This helps me feel close to her when I miss her.

7. Know that her love is still with you. This is possible even for people who don't believe in eternal life. Miss3 has a book by Debi Gliori called "No Matter What" where the little fox (Small), asks his Mummy fox (Large) all sorts of "do you love me" questions, and finally asks
"...But what about when we're dead and gone, would you love me then, does love go on?"
Large held Small snug as they looked out at the night, at the moon in the dark and the stars shining bright. "Small, look at the stars - how they shine and glow, but some of those stars died a long time ago. Still they shine in the evening skies. Love, like starlight, never dies."

Well, that's enough for one night. I have cried enough for now and it is time to take care of myself by making sure I have enough sleep tonight.

Miss3 becomes Miss4 tomorrow, so it could be an early start!


jenn said...

Sorry about your mum. The first year is the hardest as it's the first time for every occasion without your loved one.

This was a lovely post and made my heart clench and unclench a little.

roseyphoenix said...

*Big hug* Sounds like you'r looking after yourself pretty well and at least have some light on how/why/what you're feeling and some ideas how to be with that. Hug you in person soon.

home handymum said...

thanks to you both. It is hard, but we're doing okay, as far as okay goes these days.

Glad you stopped by, Jenn. Lovely to have you here.

roseyphoenix, see you Monday! Roast again?

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