“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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15 thoughts on “The Many Faces of Grief”
Thank you for writing about a subject that a lot of people hide from. The cycle of life makes death inevitable, it happens all around us. The meat we eat, the fish we catch and the grain we make bread with, all lived and died.
Death is all around us, but so is life. The birth of a child is a celebration of nature and how wonderful that is.
There are many things in life we should treasure and not take for granted, because striving for the next best car or bigger house is fine, but that will not stop the that inevitable day. So rather than looking at the bank balance, look at the spring flowers take in the morning chorus of the birds as they hail a new dawn. These are things we take for granted, we look but don’t see, we listen but don’t hear.
Oh it’s so easy when you don’t have to worry about picking up the kids, or being stopped for running a red light, or paying the mortgage, but we can take stock occasionally and listen and look.
Death never comes easy, as you say Joan, even when expected it is never easy. I along with many others in the police, saw many and dealt with many deaths, whether it had been a multiple car crash or being at the grave of a murder victim as the body is uncovered. Death is final and we had to continue working even though what we saw was devastating.
But when you are personally involved when a loved one or close relative passes away, it hits harder, but over the years I have witnessed the death of many relatives and yes its hard, but one has to reflect on the good things that happened in life and in some cases death becomes a release for the loved one who was in pain and suffering.
The holding on to the things you did and where you went and holding hands are memories, but that’s all they should be, remembering the good times, and the bad ones too. But they shouldn’t be a crutch to hold onto and not being able to move on.
In order to move on and move on you must, one has to accept death and one has to grieve, as failing to grieve will turn you inside out. It is an important emotion, it has to come out. It may manifest in many ways, anger, regret, hatred and sorrow. But that emotion has to run it’s course. It can’t be allowed to remain in one form or another, it has to pass, or it could destroy you.
Go kick the door, chop some wood, cry, shout, scream but let it go. Then sit and look at a flower and wonder the beauty of nature. Then smile and let it all go. What is then important is to seek another outlet. Something to engross you, flower arranging, yoga, walking and most of all company of friends and talking. The old saying is true; a problem shared is a problem halved.
Thanks again Joan for approaching the delicate subject
Thank you for writing. You are welcome for my writing about grief. I’m still weaving in and out of it. Like a quilt with a wonderful design; some parts dark, some parts light. I love living. I love people. Hearing from others through phone calls, in person visits, email or comments on Facebook or my blog helps me see see my purpose is by sharing either my experiences, my opinion, and my research. It helps renew my spirit. I hope it adds ideas that spur ideas that help others to see themselves in a better way. I want to help you and other readers to know that I truly care about you and that you are important to our world. Thank you for the many years you were a policeman in Spain. It takes a lot of courage, determination, and compassion to be a policeman. Thank you for doing that. Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to deal with grief.
Never Give Up
You are right on, Joan. After my first husband died I “did” death for a while. I wrote about it, counseled other widows, etc. It helped me to find new purpose and to sort out all of these feelings that at 27 I was not prepared for. I hope that writing this blog helps you deal with your own loss. love and prayer, Carol
Thank you for writing. I’m glad that you think I described things “right on” about grief. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you at the young age of 27. I’m glad you were able to write about it and help other widows. In the early years we tend to think of ourselves as being able to live forever. I thought my mother was old when she was 35. When I became 35, my opinion changed. She was a young chick at 35. I am glad that God sent the right people, and you were able to put the right thoughts going through your mind to heal and get through your pain for the death of your first husband. We know death is coming. We are always in shock when it comes. Thank you for being a good friend to me and to others on this life’s journey.
Never Give Up
PS It was also a time that I drew closer to the Lord than ever!
Thank you for writing to add that your grief after your first husband died brought you closer to the Lord. Our spiritual journey where we interact in our minds and hearts with our creator is awe inspiring. There are many people who don’t have strong faith in God. I am happy that from an early age, I knew that God was going to help me and show me the way. I believe these gut feelings we have are signs from God. Some people call it intuition. I know that when I keep my eye on following my heart, I will be fine. When death comes, our hearts get all mixed up. But soon joy comes in the morning!
You are an inspiration
Never Give Up
A good description of the grief process. Timely too for me. April is the month I lost my husband 12 years ago. I have worn all those faces and am still wearing a few—I will always miss him, but that’s okay. Writing has been part of my rebirth. My advice to others is “don’t let anyone take away your grief or put a time limit on it”! It is yours alone and a God-given emotion for healing.
Oh Wow! It is great to hear from you. Thank you for writing. I’m glad that you believe my description of the grief process was good. I hope that April passes leaving your with another rebirth of who you are. I learned from you and your family how to keep connected with those you love and make them feel an important part of your life. Your mother always invited us to help decorate your Christmas tree and your father helped me find a job when I lost mine when I was earning money to go through college. Reaching out to others in times of grief and other times helps people feel important and loved. Thank you for that. I’m very glad that your writing has helped you. I know it’s inspiring and helpful to all who read your stories.
You are inspiring to me
Never Give Up
You have recommended many positive ways to address grief and those are helpful. Like Carol, I found I drew nearer to the Lord. I am reminded of 1 Thess. 4:13 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”
Thank you for writing. It’s great to hear from you. I’m glad that you got closer to the Lord and He helped you handle your grief when Scottie died. The saying, “It Takes a village” comes to mind. It takes a village with God as the center to help us give new directions to our lives after someone we love dies. My family and friends like you have been very supportive, loving and kind. I think God sends me what and who I need. He has always surrounded me with people who love me. You are a gift of God to me. Thank you for being my friend.
You are inspiring
Never Give Up
What a beautiful article, Joan. It is sure to bring some comfort to the many people who are grieving over the loss of their loved ones.
I am sharing this with my dear widowed friend who owns a funeral home.
May God continue blessing you for all that you say and do in his holy name.
Thank you for writing. It is a pleasure to hear from you. I do hope my article brings comfort to many people who are grieving for the loss of their loved ones. What an honor that you are sharing it with a dear widowed friend who owns a funeral home. How devastating! Funeral home personnel Help others cope with death on a continuing basis. It must be very difficult for them when they have to deal with their own grief and help others, too. I will say an extra prayer for your friend. May God bless you and all you do to help others.
You are inspiring
Never Give Up
Thank you for being bold and writing about grief. I think people who are grieving try to hide it from others. Put on a happy face. I know I did when my brother passed 2 years ago. He was dying of cancer. I knew he wouldn’t survive, but the shock of his death surprised me. In my memoir I wrote about my dad’s passing, the most difficult writing I have ever done. But, as always when reflecting on my writing, I received comfort in knowing how much I loved him and he loved me. I appreciated the lessons he taught me.
Thank you for writing. It is a pleasure to hear from you. I never considered myself bold for writing about grief. That gives me a new vision of myself. Thanks for that. I must admit that my putting on a happy face helps me not get so way down. My happy face comes from the love that everyone gives to me through face to face endeavors, emails, phone calls, messages on my blog, and comments on Facebook. My sad face comes more than I ever remember having a sad face. Grief is a natural and uncontrollable emotion. I am glad that you wrote about your brothers’ passing and your father’s passing in your memoir. And that it helped you realize how much they loved you and you loved them. Which is a wonderful thing. Love seeps into our psyches and touches our inner hearts. Love keeps us grounded and able to continue on our journey. I’ve written in my blog and sometimes in a diary, but not consistently, in diary format. I discovered that after Carl’s death the anniversary dates of the deaths of other people in my family seems to hurt more and I have to go through the grieving process with all of them again. Once I stopped trying to control my feelings and accept them, I did better. Sometimes we want control of things that it is impossible to control. Going with the flow as they say takes away that stress of the need to control. I hope that remembering and being thankful for the love that your brother and father gave you and ways they showed you how much they loved you lingers in your heart and makes it swell with a love for yourself and your life as it is today.
You are inspiring
Never Give Up