“The Many Faces of Grief” by Joan Y. Edwards
Grief is the normal internal feeling one experiences in reaction to a loss. You have seen them. You have experienced them. They are real. They are not a figment of your imagination. However, when grieving your imagination sometimes takes over. How long does grief last? It may last a lifetime. How long it impacts your life or stops you from living to the utmost is sometimes up to you and sometimes feels like it is out of your control. All of this points to the effects of your feelings after someone you love dies.
1. One face of grief is shock. You know that everyone dies. You may have had clues this was the time God was calling your loved one home. Or you may have been rejecting that idea and thinking he was going to be healed and live longer with you. You remember well that everyone dies. It still is a shock when death comes. No matter how young or old the person is. It is a shock to your emotional system to find that they are no longer alive.
2, One face of grief is anger. Anger that your loved one has left you all alone. You can’t feel their touch. You don’t have their encouraging words, the warm hugs, the light kisses, the listening ear. They left you alone with all the financial, legal, household and personal items to figure out and take care of. You have to sort through their clothing, their favorite books and DVDs. How could they leave you with all that headache and worry to go through by yourself. It really wasn’t their intention. Probably, they would rather be here on earth with you.
3. Another face of grief is sadness. You feel sadness that your loved one has left you all alone. You can’t feel their touch. You don’t have the encouraging words, the warm hugs, the light kisses, the listening ear. You miss being with them. You miss looking into their eyes and seeing their smiling face. The memories of moments the two of you shared together are gone now unless you shared them with someone else. I found myself telling my daughters and his daughter about things that my husband and I had done together. I think through sharing them it helped keep the memories alive a little longer and to let go at least once for those memories. It takes many times of letting go. Perhaps a way of letting go of these memories is to write them down. If you want to share them with others, it is okay. If you want to shred them, it is okay. You can have a candle service and thank God for the wonderful memories. You can also bury your written words in a flower garden or in the woods.
4. Another face of grief is fear. The things you are afraid of can be numerous. Some of the fears are stronger than others. The fear of being alone if you were married to the deceased loved one can be hard to handle. Depending upon your background. If being abandoned at an early age was a prevalent memory for you, your spouse’s death may trigger those feelings of abandonment and fear of how you’re going to make it being alone. Sort of like in the game of tag, “Ready or Not, Here I come.” Death says, “Ready or Not, Here I come.”
5. Another face of grief is exhaustion. After the death of a loved one, you can’t get to sleep. Once you get to sleep, you wake up in a few hours. You start thinking about the events leading up to the death. Planning the funeral, going to the funeral, attending the burial: all take energy. After that you have the legal matters that must be taken care of. Why did your loved one leave you with all this to do? Even when your loved one leaves a will or trust and beneficiary on death papers signed, it is still stressful. Waiting to get connected by phone to the right party can take up to an hour. This waiting is stressful in regular times. It triples the stress after someone dies. The tears flow at unexpected times. Having to say “My husband died” over and over again on the phone may take a notch out of your calmness. The tears flow. It’s okay. It’s a natural response. It is part of the healing process. Crying levels your emotions and helps your body relax and start healing.
6. Another face of grief is feeling alone and isolated. You don’t have the loved one who died to share the small details of your life: what you ate for lunch, to know if you took your medicine on time, what you watched on TV, or who you missed most from high school. You are no longer the center of your loved ones life. They are no longer the center of yours; although parts of you still think they are. It’s recognizing this reality that your loved one is not there anymore, that is the hardest to accept.
There is a feeling of alienation from usual gatherings of family and friends. With COVID, you are even more isolated for good reason, You want your family and friends to be protected. You want to be protected. Being with others that you and your spouse used to get together with is a time of healing for all of you. Somehow Zoom and other video chats aren’t the same as face to face and receiving a warm hug and encouragement from family and close friends.
I am lucky and very thankful that I have family and friends who call to check on me or come by to visit; both Carl’s family and mine. I have been fortunate enough to see my family face to face. Not every day, but occasionally. They check on me often. And whenever I tell them I especially miss them they set up time for the whole family to get together. Now that I’ve had the second Covid vaccine, I’ll be able to meet and see my family and friends who live close and those who live far away. Many have been sick and others are going through rough times. I want to be there for them.
There is part of the grieving process that you have to do alone. No one can do it for you. It is your grief. Other members of the family and close friends have to go through their own personal grief.
7. Seventh face of grief is Rebirth of Self (hope, joy, thankfulness, acceptance, new purpose). The stress of the death and your grief may even make you sick. Achieve a balance of eating the right foods, exercising, doing the things you used to enjoy: walking, reading, going to the movies. Doing something new may give you a new way to look at things.
Cook a new dish, bake a cake, buy yourself an ice cream cone with chocolate sprinkles. Draw a picture, write a song, take pictures, plant new flowers. All of these things are good.
When you get to the acceptance phase, you are ready to help other people. There is a need within you to find a new purpose or a renew the purpose you may have forgotten during all this grief. You find a purpose for living since your loved one is no longer there. You will designate a new emphasis or renew a past idea.
God made you to share his goodness and love with others. What you give to our world isn’t provided by anyone else. You are the one to do it. I think after a loved one dies, you have to do things to help rebuild yourself. No one else knows what you need better than you. But you have to speak up. You have to take note of the little nudges of wisdom that come to you.
Think about the flight attendant who tells you that you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you put it on your child. It’s important to remember to do what you think you need to do to pull yourself up out of the doldrums. Also, at least once a day, do something to make someone smile. Call a friend. Call a relative. Donate time, money or goods to your favorite charity. Call to thank someone for helping you. Call an old friend you haven’t talked to in ages. Do things that leave you with inner joy. Share your joy with others.
There are many other faces of grief. I only chose to elaborate on seven of them. You may see all of these faces on a given day. You may see other faces that I didn’t mention. Whatever face of grief you are experiencing, love yourself. Be kind and gentle.
I ask God to help you accept yourself and all of your feelings from the loss of someone you love.
Whatever you are going through today, I hope you realize what a gift you are. I know that you may not understand how important you are to all of the people who know you. It is important to love yourself.
I am sending hugs and thankfulness for you for reading my blog. Thank you for being the love that transforms the sadness of others into joy. What seems little to you may be a life saver for someone else.
- Huffington Post. “A New Look at the 7 Emotional States of Loss:” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/loss-grief_b_5556644
- Medicine Net. “Grief Symptoms: Get Facts on the Seven Stages of Grief:” https://www.medicinenet.com/loss_grief_and_bereavement/article.htm
- Medicine Net. “Depression: Symptoms, Types, Test, and Treatment: “https://www.medicinenet.com/depression/article.htm#what_are_the_risk_factors_and_causes_of_depression
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
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