The words of kindness are more healing to a drooping heart than balm or honey.
“I am sorry you have to go through this.”
“I love you.”
“I am here to listen.”
“You are so courageous.”
Kindness goes a long way in the grief process. For Grief Supporters, kindness can mean the difference between maintaining a relationship and losing your grieving friend forever. Grievers are hurting, there is no need to make demands on them during their grief (there are enough), or to lecture them on what you feel they are doing wrong (you don’t know what they are dealing with every day). Make a Griever’s life easier by sharing kindness.
Grievers, remember to be kind to yourself. This process is long and difficult. Sometimes your self-kindness may be the only kindness you receive. Help yourself heal by extending kindness to yourself every day.
The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.
-Marcus Tullius Cicero
When a loved one dies, there is a belief that we cannot talk about that person or day-dream about what s/he would think about something in our present reality. By not acknowledging the dead, moving through grief becomes harder because we act as though that person never existed. However, our lost loved ones leave impressions on us, voices that resonate with us throughout our day and the rest of our lives. The dead are never truly dead as long as we recognize and can enjoy the pieces of them that lives within us.
We carry the examples and the values of our lost loved ones with us every day. We behave in ways that they have shown us, we pursue dreams that they have supported. We are reminders of their existence and we can (and should) speak of our loved ones regularly. Our loved ones continue to live through the stories we tell in our families and through the memories we share with those who have never met them.
We have a responsibility to remember where we come from and honor what has inspired us by remembering our lost loved ones and sharing their lives with others.
Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
Grief is a constant struggle with emotions, life circumstances, unhelpful Grief Supporters, difficult family members, and missing the loved one. The effort required to slog your way through this period is enormous. Along the way, you will uncover strength you were unaware of and experience a time of rapid personal growth. The Grief road is rocky, slippery, a rapid descent, a slow and steep climb, and they only way to the other side is to continue forward. You will make it.
When you forgive, you in no way change the past—but you sure do change the future.
The grief period is fraught with tension, Grief Supporters behave badly, Grievers hold anger, very few people understand what Grievers are dealing with in their daily lives, etc. To come out of this experience as a stronger person, Grievers should have forgiveness within reach. Forgiveness won’t change the poor treatment in the past or the circumstances in which a Griever lived, but it will allow you to move into a future unencumbered by anger and hate. Forgiveness paves the way for a future of love and understanding.
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.
As a society, we seem to treat death as something outside the norm, something unexpected, something bad. Birth and Death are bookends to Life. While death may surprise us, when it comes early or unexpectedly, death itself is something of which we should all be cognizant.
We should not fear death, rather we should use the knowledge of death and its unpredictable appearance, to live a life of joy, meaning, and love. This doesn’t mean that we cannot grieve in the face of death, only that we should become more comfortable with the idea that death is part of the life cycle we are privileged to experience. Let’s not take life for granted.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.
If you are looking for someone to save you during your grief freefall, look in the mirror. Others will try to mold you into the person they want you to be…and that isn’t going to give you the life you seek. You are your own savior. You can pick up the pieces, you can put things together and reconfigure a brilliant future to live. You know what you need.
Step away from the moments in which there are too many voices telling you what to do, how to feel, what to decide, and how to act. Take time to sit in silence every day so that you can meet these demands with a strong, clear mind. Take as much time as you need in silence to fortify yourself for the days and weeks to come. Quiet is good for the soul.
In my post The Right to Fall Apart, I wrote about the Griever’s right to express emotions when needed. The trouble with falling apart is that we have to attend to our lives at the same time. We have jobs, school, and/or families to deal with. Real Life intrudes on our need to crumble; therefore, we need to remember two things:
As strange as it sounds, falling apart should be a productiveexperience, one that helps move you forward in your healing each time.
You have to develop ways to fall apart gracefullywhile engaging in daily life.
Grief doesn’t wait for your workday to be over and Real Life doesn’t pause so you can deal with an emotional swell. The two, Grief and Real Life, coexist such that we are living Grief IN Real Life.
If you are falling apart, use this centering thought to focus your experience:
I release my emotions so that I may shed negative feelings and gather strength to move my healing forward.
Take a bathroom break, especially if you need to cry (not howl cry, but just cry). Don’t go to the closest bathroom to you; go to one farther away if you can. Let the extra walk be part of the journey: it will give you time to compose yourself afterward. Moreover, you may be less likely to run into someone you work directly with, as these people may want to stop and chat when you really just want to be alone for a few minutes. As gross as it sounds, shutting yourself in a stall where you can let the tears fall may be the closest thing you get to being alone during your workday.
Block 15 minutes out of your schedule: make sure you are completely unavailable for calls, appointments, and people stopping by. Shut your office door and cry or just let yourself feel sadness. If you have an office with interior windows and blinds, pull them shut. Don’t answer your door or your phone. Don’t use this time to check email or text message. This is purely time for you to sit and let things out.
If you don’t have an office (or blinds for your office) block at least 15 minutes out of your schedule and take a walk. Ideally, if you can walk outside where you are less likely to run into someone, walk in your parking lot or around your building. Try not to do this on a lunch break when there might be more people around.
Use your lunch break thoughtfully. Take a long walk away from your building and let yourself be sad or cry, or take lunch in a secluded place where you can sit by yourself and let the feelings come. Wear sunglasses so that if you do pass people, you can achieve a small sense of privacy. It sounds silly, but that barrier can be helpful.
AT SCHOOL: If you are in high school or college, you may have very little time to yourself, but here are some thoughts for you to find a way to fall apart.
Find an empty classroom or room that you know goes unused for part of the day. Sit for 15 minutes and either cry or just let yourself be sad. Maybe write in a journal. Don’t use the time to play on social media sites: this distracts from the purpose of the alone time. The library may provide helpful nooks and crannies where you can seclude yourself away for a brief time. If you are in high school, ask a trusted teacher if you use her/his classroom between classes. In both high school and college, auditoriums can be good spaces: they are relatively large and are not in use regularly.
Take a long walk during lunch and/or have your lunch in a room or space that not many people frequent at that time of day. Wear sunglasses to help shield your private moment from public view, especially if you are feeling teary.
If you are in college (or boarding school), I highly suggest you vacate your dorm room so that you get yourself moving and do not make your bedroom a sadness center. It may then become more difficult to leave the room (or your bed) if you limit your sad times to that one space.
Ask a close friend (at work or at school) or family member for a hug. When you are falling apart, it helps to have a feeling of love. Human contact is important when you are upset and hugs, while seemingly basic, pack a huge emotional punch. Don’t be afraid to ask for one. You aren’t the only one who will benefit from a hug. You don’t have to tell your friend/family why you want a hug; just ask. If you feel awkward about asking, just initiate the hug yourself, no reason given.
Be honest with your Grief Supporters, especially if you are surrounded by people all day. Tell them you are having a bad/quiet/whatever day and therefore need more space.
Distance yourself from Grief Supporters who create more stress for you on bad days. You can (mostly) avoid people for one day without explanation, and rejoin them the next. Just tell them you were busy with work/school/post-funeral stuff/kids/etc. if you feel they may judge you for having a bad day.
Journal your sadness or use another medium to express your sadness creatively: paint, draw, write bad poetry, whatever. The purpose is not to create a masterpiece, but to channel your feelings into a positive direction.
Watch a sad movie or TV show. You know there are guaranteed tearjerkers out there. Maybe you even have a favorite in your collection that you can use. Throw one on Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, etc. and have a good cry. You can invite a friend if you’d like. If other people are around, you can cry without having to explain that you’re having a bad day. Blame it on the film.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful. If you have others that have worked in your experience, share them in the comments or send them to me so I can share them with others.
No matter how prepared you think you are for the death of a loved one, it still comes as a shock and it still hurts very deeply.
Death is conceptual until it becomes a reality for us. We can imagine what it must be like, but then we forget to include all of the things the death of a loved one takes with it. It is not just the absence of the person that comes with death, there is the sudden removal of emotional and psychological supports that come out from underneath us; things we never knew were there until they are not.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
A difficult aspect of grief, I think, is feeling knocked off balance…and wondering how (and when) you will feeling balanced again. Balance comes only by going forward, it doesn’t matter whether you run, walk, or crawl.
Einstein’s example of a bicycle helps us think about how to stay balanced. If you stop and try to balance the bicycle while standing still, you will expend a lot of effort trying to stay upright, and you are quite prone to tipping over. To stay upright on a bike, you just have to get pedaling. The good thing is, once you have some momentum, you can decide the speed. You can pedal leisurely, quickly, or just coast for a while (well, unless you are going uphill).
Don’t worry about when the balance will feel normal again. Trust life to carry you for a while. For now, you just need to keep the momentum going. Pedal when you need to and coast when you don’t…let the bike work for you.
Good Friday (the Friday before Easter) was the day my mother and I decorated Easter Eggs. My mother learned how to make Polish pisanki from her mother and she continued the tradition after her mother’s death, eventually welcoming me to the activity.Continue reading “Traditions: Easter Edition”
You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.
Let go of anger you have at your situation or at people in your life. Anger affects the person who feels it, not the person against who anger is felt. Don’t waste your energy letting negative emotions rule you. Instead, spend your energy nurturing yourself and cultivating the life you wish to build with people you love.
Love those you judge you, and let karma take care of the rest.