What is Grief?
Grief is a highly personal process with no time limits. Who is to say that a month is enough when a loved one passes, or should it take a year or even three? Long after the initial shock and sadness wanes, there will be times that bring back the sorrow – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, a song, a beautiful memory… These times may also bring up good memories - and that is the hope!
As with anything there are productive ways and unproductive ways to handle a matter and this also applies to grief. Here are some constructive approaches to assist with the grief process.
Rituals Set up rituals to remember your loved ones. At giving holidays honor them with serving their favorite food, setting out their favorite holiday decoration, or sending a donation to a charity they supported. For Thanksgiving while stating to your family what you're thankful for around the dinner table, include why you were thankful for your loved one too! On Mother’s or Father’s day take flowers to the graveside, or go out to eat with the family to your loved one's favorite restaurant and recount stories that make you laugh. Remembering the good times and focusing on how our loved ones added to our lives helps us accept the loss.
Designate Time Allow yourself a set amount of time to grieve and then go back to your regular routine. For example, let’s say it's your loved one’s birthday and in the first few years of their passing maybe you set aside that whole day or half a day to grieve, that's okay. Listen to music they loved, read their poetry, look at videos or pictures of them, get together with friends and family and throw a party in honor of them or a small gathering to eat cake and ice cream. As the years pass you may find that the dedicated time becomes less. This is normal.
Do whatever makes you feel close to the loved one. One family I know who lost their dad goes for a flight in a small airplane on his birthday each year because dad was a pilot and loved flying.
I just lost my brother in January and I was very close to him. His birthday was February 23, and since it was a Sunday I chose to stay home and listen to his music (John Denver) while I cleaned house. I also posted pictures of us on social media, ate cake and ice cream (great excuse to cheat on a diet!), sent his wife a loving text, emailed my sister and discussed how we shouldn’t take each other for granted, and allowed myself to cry as the feelings of missing him rose to the surface.
Possessions When you are ready (and only you will know when that is!), have a friend help with selling or donating any personal possessions that you don’t want or need such as clothing or that collection of shot glasses acquired while on family vacations. It’s always a good idea to have a friend to lean on and help you get through this time.
Forgetting Some fear that if they go on with their lives or are happy that this equates to disrespecting or forgetting their loved one. When this happens, the question to ask is, “Would your loved one want you to be happy, or would they want you to stay in this pain and sadness?” The next question to ask is, “If you passed before them, would you want them to continue with their life and be happy, or would you want them to stop living?” If the answer to both of these questions is to be unhappy and sad, then consider professional help with a therapist that specializes in grief counseling.
Grieving is about honoring your feelings and honoring your loved one. Any healthy way you choose to do this will help you heal. There are no linear steps to the grieving process. It’s a circular evolution. You will move in and out of different emotions experiencing them again and again, but hopefully as time goes on the emotions will be less intense.
We are never done with grieving
because we are never done with loving.