For the last 9 months I've been living with a mark I never thought I would be. I am living with loss. A great loss. My childhood friend of 26 years. And during my loss, others have been at a loss as to what to do or say. I'm here to help and speak up about that today.
After a great loss, one never wants more than to wake up from the most inevitable nightmare they are living. They never, ever have wanted there to be a traveling back in time invention than they ever have now, and they never thought others would cast them aside, or their pain aside, while they endure the hardest, most traumatic experiences of their lives. But it's all true.
There is about a 5-10 second break in the mornings for me. You know, when your body is awake but your brain isn't quite there yet? Ya, that. In those seconds I don't have the reality of my loss, and I feel like I use to before it ever happened.
It's the greatest feeling in the world.
But then it hits me, and the reality of my loss is alive and kicking like never before.
I'm learning, oh I'm learning alright. Reading and doing a daily devotional (mediation), about loss, and I'm journaling and even talking about it still--to whoever will listen. Pathetic, right? I'm still in a support group and still have my session with the hospice counselor every Friday at 10am. We made some excellent progress last week. She helped me see that because I met Amy at 15, that is the age where I feel the loss the most. Meaning, we bonded at 15 like madness, we both needed the love each was giving, and we became so enmeshed and dependent upon one another, to the point of no healthy boundaries, that all that intensifies the loss for me. We were basically one step away from being married. Married couples had better boundaries than we did most of our friendship.
I'm learning to live with the pain of loss. My grief counselor says that as I heal and do the grief work, time will do me well. As I get further and further away from her death, the less agony I will feel. And it's true, it has been less debilitating, less intense, less frequent. And I've learned not to hate on those feelings and thoughts when they happen, but to allow them. That's helping too.
I understand someone not knowing what to say or do with a grieving person, I've been there. But I obviously am now on the other side of it and if I can give some tips to someone who knows someone who is experiencing great loss, so the griever can feel less like they belong on a deserted island, well then, I'm gonna. Because believe me, we feel like lepers walking around in a society that has no clue what to do with us.
Say something, anything at all! It is NEVER too late to tell the grieving person you are sorry for their loss. It is never to late in the process to tell someone that you are thinking of them. WE want to be acknowledged, because most of the time people avoid the subject and won't even look us in the eyes. So please, say something, anything! Don't worry about being awkward. Grief IS awkward, because we were never meant to deal with death. Saying something is much better and more loving than saying nothing at all. Most people use the excuse that they don't know WHAT to say. That's OK, say it anyway, it's the fact that you are saying SOMEthing that means the world.
2. DON'T ASSUME or JUDGE
When I didn't understand a grieving person (someone who had experienced a significant loss), I admit, I would judge their situation. I wouldn't understand why they would still bring it up. Why they would still talk about it, share about it, or even be sad about it. I literally did not get this at all. I am not ashamed to admit this, because a person cannot understand a thing until they themselves go through it. That's super true people. It's not possible to have a clue unless going through a similar loss yourself. But trust us, there is no "getting over it". We need to share, we need to heal and we need the world to be kinder as we do! So whether you understand or not, I'm asking you to TRUST us as we grieve that it's really THAT BAD. It really DOES HURT like anything we've ever experienced. We just want safe places to heal and express what's in our hearts without judgement. So just take our word for it, as crazy as we might seem, we're not. Our lives have been completely turned upside down and we are now different. We wish were weren't.
3. JUST LISTEN and maybe ASK
I have had a few select people that have "saved" me in my grief. My mom, my other best friend of 16 years and my husband. I have also had a new friend here in Cali who has been wonderful as well. They have done the hard, uncomfortable, loving, selfless thing: they've listened. They've asked. Probably when they didn't want an answer. And I've been extra lucky, they've spoken truth to me when I've needed it. They've not just listened, they partake. Their goal was me and love, I could not have gotten through the last nine months without them. I feel indebted to them.
If you don't know what to do, or what to ask, just listen. Maybe you could ask the person grieving what they'd like to talk about? Ask them about their loved one? Just like it's never too late to say something, anything at all, it's never too late to check in and ask or listen. You don't have to say anything profound. Just sit and listen. We need the ear.
4. READ and LEARN about GRIEF
Take a few minutes out of your day to read about grief. It's stunning all there is to learn, and how other cultures handle grief. And BTW, Americans handle it the worst. We just don't know, we just haven't been taught well. But there are other countries that are absolutely amazing with mourning as weird as that sounds. They hold the grievers up for as long as necessary. They tend to them, take care of them. They allow them to rest. Here, in the states, we are back at work after the funerals/memorials. I am sure if I worked a traditional job, I would have been fired the week I had returned. I'm grateful to have had the space to grieve and heal. That is crucial because all healing is a vertical process. If we are healing healthily, we are vertical, which means we are upright, standing, strong, and sturdy. If we ignore our grief, and don't do the necessary healing, it will all come out sideways down the road, which means uncontrollable emotions like anger, or bitterness, or poor behaviors and patterns. Sideways means not good.
As grievers, we don't like being marked by loss. It's torture. And as someone on the sidelines, don't be marked by not saying anything, or learning empathy, or not looking a griever in the eyes, or not listening. Grieving people everywhere need you. Thanks for listening.