It seems that there are so many things to remember when dealing with grief and the extreme saddens that accompanies it.
You need to know that you must find a way to give yourself permission to feel and express yourself and your hurt.
You need to remember also that there are some reactions to the death of someone that you love that you will need to have. I mentioned those reactions in detail in the three R’s, Realize, Recognize and Rebuild.
Beyond that, there are a number of other things that you will get to when you have the energy, but all of the wisdom that I have with grief and it’s many and varied reactions is connected to feeling and doing what you need to regardless of what others tell you that you should or should not be feeling or doing.
There are some parameters in terms of your behavior but I will get to that in the weeks to come.
In order to express your grief in a healthy way, you need support, kindness, sensitivity, gentle understanding and permission to hurt, feel and in time recover.
There are, however, a few simple facts when dealing with grief that you may find helpful.
Over the next few weeks I will get to each of them.
Remember this: Your feelings are subjective and unique. No one else can determine the weight or significance of your feelings.
So often those around you are willing to tell you how you feel and what this experience is like for you.
Even though all of that advice and insight is offered in the name of helping you, your experience is yours and no one can tell you what you feel or what this event means for you.
We are often guilty of assuming that we all experience in similar or even identical ways. That kind of generalization is incorrect and dangerous.
Instead of listening to the person who is in distress, we have already decided, based on our own experiences what they must be going through and what this event must mean for them.
Some people are extremely distraught over the death of a family member; others hurt more over the death of a friend. Some feel deep loss instantly, others are never able to associate the death of that particular person to the agony that you might feel in their place.
It is only by communicating and sharing of yourself and your hurt and needs honestly that you can help those around you to understand what you are going through.
The minute that you leave those who are trying to help you, guessing at the depth or meaning of your pain and your need, then they may very well get it wrong.
While your feelings are unique to you, you will need to help others understand them.
I have seen some people who have been devastated by the death of a family pet. I have also seen others who seem not to be broken by losing a close relative.
Melissa was crushed when her cat died. They had been together for almost 17 years. He was her family. When Harold (the cat) died Melissa received almost no sympathy from those around her. They assumed that Harold’s death deserved the attention that they might have given to the death of a pet. For Melissa, however, Harold was hugely important. She was grief stricken with no support.
Carl on the other hand had a horrible childhood and had never been close to his parents. When they died, his friends were shocked that Carl had very little reaction. They all put themselves in his place and couldn’t imagine losing their parents’ without suffering from painful grief reactions.
See what I mean?
To those of you who are providing help and support to your friend or family member who has suffered an important loss, pay close attention to what you hear and see.
If you are helping to care for and support someone who is grieving and sad, try not to assume that you know what they are going through. Ask them how they feel and what they need and listen closely. Avoid deciding their needs, based on what you would require if you were in their situation.
Be prepared and open to what you might hear. Try not to put your framework on their loss and their situation.
When I see someone who is grieving I ask them to tell me about their relationship to the person who has died. I pay attention to what they are telling me and I try very hard not to make assumptions and draw conclusions. My story and feelings are not theirs.
To those of you who are grieving and sad, try to remember your feelings are yours alone. Help those who care for you to understand what your hurt is like, and share with them what you need. Resist letting others tell you how you feel, risk and tell them where you are and what you need.
You will only stand a chance of receiving the kind of support you need from those around you by being honest. If the death of your dog or cat causes you great pain, risk and tell those around you. You will only have the chance to get the response that you need by being open and honest.
Your feelings are subjective and unique. No one else can determine the weight or significance of your feelings.