On Saturday we had a death in the family and its brought up a whole host of issues. Death is an inevitable part of life. Some of us will experience it with more frequency than others, but eventually you will have to face it. Here are a few things I have learned along the way that have helped me as I grieve.
1. Its ok to grieve. This can be a hard one if your whole life you have been told that the opposite is true. Growing up I was never allowed to grieve. My mother and grandmother (I am sure it was the German drill sergeants in them) would always give me a reason why it was not acceptable for me to grieve. I was not close enough to the person, others were closer and we need to be strong for them. We were just friends, family comes first. Oh there was a whole host of reasons, all of them bad. Its ok to grieve. Its ok if someone knew them better, the person who died still left a hole in your life. When you grieve you heal and when you grieve you show others how much that person meant to you. Go ahead and grieve.
2. Children have the right to grieve too. We try to shield our children from pain and suffering. Sometimes more because we don't want to grieve and have to support them at the same time while they grieve. Death will find them eventually, give them the ability to deal with it when the time comes. When a child mourns they needs their friends just like an adult who needs friends when they face a loss. If your child or a child you know has faced a loss, let them see their friends. They are not a burden, they won't think its a play date, they do understand the situation, allow them to grieve too.
3. The pain won't kill you. In the face of pain you try to run away from it, to think about something else, to medicate it away or drink it away or work it away, anything not to feel. Its ok to face the pain, it won't kill you. If you face the pain eventually it subsides and the healing starts. And all the people who surround you, they are there to help you through it.
4. Its ok to laugh. I imagine the person who passed away would not want to see you sitting there crying your days away anyway. Its ok to laugh while you retell stories of your loved one. Its ok to laugh, it doesn't mean your pain is gone, it doesn't mean you don't love enough, it doesn't mean people will stop supporting you. Its ok to remember the good times and smile. Its preferable you do that than to dwell on the doubts, the what ifs, the regrets. Remember them and smile.
5. If you can't attend the funeral, you can hold your own. No, its not weird. Its healing. Release some balloons in honor of the loved one, plant a tree or make a donation in their name, make a picture slide show in their memorial, write a poem in their honor or write down all your memories of the person while it is fresh and save them. You will feel better to do something because its just natural to feel helpless and like you have no closure.
6. In time the pain starts to go away, know thats ok. It does not mean that you don't love that person any less or are forgetting them. It means you are healing. You aren't meant to hurt forever. Don't worry, you will never forget. There will come a day when you will realize you hadn't thought about them in hours or days and thats ok too. All the things they taught you, all your memories, are still there and will remain forever.
7. No two people grieve in the same way, and thats ok too. You don't have to grieve like the next person. If sobbing is your thing that fine, but if you are stoic and emotionless thats ok too. If people can't handle how you are dealing with the loss just remind them that its your loss to feel the way you can best deal with it. Some people will move through the process faster than others. Some will delay it for years by running from it, others can be past it rather quickly while your pain is still near and fresh.
I hope this helps someone as they face the unfortunate situation. If you have anything helpful to add please do.