How many times in our lives have we sat in disbelief and shock, in tears, shaking our heads and saying over and over “I just don’t understand?” No matter how much contemplating and suffering we do, we still cannot figure it out.
When I lost my husband to the beast of depression I had to surrender to the idea that life’s maneuvers operate corresponding to a mastermind that is way beyond anything linear. There are enough challenges while navigating trauma and loss, and as you move through that pain the only thing that is expected of you is to simply take the next best step. There is no map to navigate through grief, you are not expected to control the territory around you, you simply have to take each step forward as it presents itself to you, and if you do that in your pajamas with three day old make up and your hair in a bun trust that that is enough.
When you do not understand, you just need to trust, and I know that when you lose someone tragically trusting that everything will be okay seems ridiculous. To me, the world felt scary and unsafe, although at a certain point I was able to abandon the what ifs and the ideas of the way things should be and slowly and with intent put one foot in front of the other .
“To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”
~ Thomas Campbell
I have become very aware of the cycle of life. Death is inevitable and though we are given life, how we choose to live it is optional.
Members of my family on both sides are experiencing grief, loss and heartache today. I come from a small town in a small province surrounded by small villages. Loss has a ripple effect and can be felt throughout the communities. There is a lot of love, and sadly, as always a lot of judgement because judging is always easier than understanding. Empathy is a concept that not everyone is able to grasp.
People treat pain like a hot potato and to avoid experiencing pain they often pass it along to others. It is not right and it is not pleasant, and it is a certain reality that anyone who experiences the loss of a loved one will likely face.
Today I am compelled to share with all of you the importance of holding space for someone, which simply means to be present and to allow them to feel everything that they are feeling. Grief can be uncomfortable, for the onlookers it can be as difficult as watching someone with a bloody, open wound. Sometimes the automatic instinct is to avoid those that are suffering until the wound begins to heal, or at least till the wound has been stitched up and covered. At that point you may have lost a friend. Relationships are severed, formed and strengthened in times of struggle.
For me, the right people showed up, the right people came, the right people stayed and the right people left. It can be hurtful to lose connections at such and important time in your life but it is powerful finding out that the people that belong in your life will always be there, in some capacity and definitely when you need them the most. We are continually growing and changing and it is important to realize that not everyone is meant to be with us for our entire journey.
“Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”
~ Terry Pratchett
There are some simple things that you can do for people that are grieving. I often hear, “ I do not know what to say”, “ I do not know what to do.” Here are some simple important things you can do.
- Show up– let them know that you are there and that you care. There are no magic words and you cannot take away the pain but knowing you want to is enough.
- Food is always appreciated. My boss kept bringing a food. I would not have cared if I ever ate again but when someone set a plate in front of me I did. There will also be a lot of visitors and people like to eat when they are sad, just as much as they do when they are happy.
- Avoid phrases like, “it was God’s will or “everything happens for a reason” and “don’t cry”. Nobody needs to hear any of that shit when they are grieving. If you are unsure of what to say, just say “I am here.” Or simply just be there.
- Recognize that you can ask a grieving person what they need a million times in a million different ways and they will not know. What they need is their loved one back and they cannot see past that. When you are grieving shock suspends you in a weird place for awhile, a place where everything is numb so that the pain does not bring you to your knees. Pick a task and do it. Fold laundry, go get milk and toiletries, make phone calls, assign tasks to other visitors.
- Share your memories. People often avoid talking about the person that died which is just weird and creepy. They lived, they existed and they will always exist in our hearts and memories. Share your memories and your funny stories, share them now and share them always.
To all of you that are suffering and finding your way through the pain of loss please know that my heart is with you. You will be ok. There is no timeline, or magical manual to navigate grief and nothing I can say that will make sense or ease your pain except to say that if you choose to, you will be ok.
“All the art of living lies in the fine mingling between letting go and holding on”
Havelock Ellis ~