Thoughts About Grief
By Maureen Kramlinger
With the death of someone central to our lives—a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a friend—we find ourselves in new territory. We may not like it at all. We may feel as if we don’t even know who we are any more. We may wonder if we’ll ever be happy again, if life will ever again feel full and rich.
With the death of a loved one, we hang suspended between the familiar that has ended and the new that can’t be imagined. In specific ways, large and small, our whole life has been changed. We no longer can or need to do certain things we had to do or always did. Now we have to do things we never had to do before.
People who used to be around a lot may not come or call much anymore. We have time we don’t know what to do with. Even when we think of things to do, we’re unsure who to do them with. We sometimes feel a longing to be with someone, and at other times we shrink from the company of others. We’re assaulted with unpredictable feelings. Perhaps we even wonder who cares about us any more, or who or what we can count on—including ourselves. Woven through all is the empty knowledge that our loved one isn’t here any more.
Sometimes getting support from others is not easy. It takes real effort to notice what we need and decide who might be able to help with one need or another. It takes honesty and humility to ask another to do something with us or for us. It’s sometimes hard to admit that we have needs. We may feel mad that we have to ask. It was so much easier when our loved one was here to do what we needed!
“I just want to know when this is going to be over. I want my life back. I want things to be normal.” We may feel cheated, robbed. We feel unsettled, off-balance, unprotected. We just want relief.
What do we do? Should we just wait out the storm, wait until the sun returns, and we can peek out? Or, to the contrary, do we wrestle with grief and try to beat it down? Do we keep busy, run as fast as we can and hope grief will be left behind in the dust? Do we hibernate and wait for it to pass like winter? Do we ignore grief, pretend it isn’t there, or boldly whistle in the dark until it goes away?
If we do these things, we are treating grief like the enemy. It is not the enemy. It is neither destructive nor deadly itself. On the contrary, grief is a lifeforce. It works on our behalf. When someone or something precious is lost to us, grief rises up within us. It is a mighty force that honors the importance of all we have lost. It comes to trumpet our wounds, to soothe our broken hearts. Grief equips us to face an encroaching awareness of all the implications of our loss, large and small.
Grief is not something we “get over.” Rather, it is something we “get through.” We can pace ourselves, take time out from grief. If we have the courage to welcome grief as a friend, we can be confident we’re moving toward a “new normal.”