I am grieving
This is a tough month for me.
On February 3rd, thirty-five years ago, my brother, 31, was killed by a hit and run drunk driver. And last year, during the first three months of the year, my mother came to the end of her life.
I find myself thinking about my brother, wondering how so many years flew by since his death—a lifetime of missed moments. And this year, as I come closer to the first anniversary of my mother’s passing, I realize how much I miss her. Her birthday is just around the corner.
Fifteen years earlier, I promised my mother I would spend every birthday with her for the rest of her life. Since then, every March 8th, I flew to Florida to celebrate with her. This will be the first year, of many to come, that I don’t make that trip.
I am grieving.
I am a member of a very large community of adults who have lost a loved one. It’s almost impossible to get to my age and to have missed a visit from the angel of death. Our lives have a beginning, middle, and end. How and when this end arrives is unknown.
Here’s what’s important to know about grieving:
Grief comes in waves. No matter how long it’s been, feelings of loss come in waves. Sometimes these breakers wash over you and then pass. Other times they knock you down. Birthdays, holidays, or anniversaries can bring rough seas and white caps. But sometimes, just hearing a song, watching a movie, or looking at a picture can bring sadness to the surface.
The first year is the hardest. It’s a year filled with firsts--first mother’s day, first birthday, first Christmas, and first thanksgiving without your loved one. Your loss is fresh and despite our innate drive to carry on with life, the waves of grief and sadness come more often.
Losing a child. Losing a spouse. For the last 34 years, my mother called me on February 3rd in tears over the loss of my brother, her son. A strong woman, survivor of the great depression, she felt intense grief over her loss. How could she not?
Losing a spouse is very hard too. We live with our partner, and their loss is felt during every waking hour of the day. Their death, anticipated or not, requires a huge adjustment on a daily basis.
We don’t “get over” a loss—we get used to the person’s absence in our life. All too often, well-meaning family members tell a grieving relative to “get over it”. But we never really get over a loved one’s passing, but their absence does become more familiar over time. Adjusting to their disappearance in our lives does not stop us from missing them.
Express your feelings. Don’t keep your sadness inside. Find ways of expressing it. Talk to a friend, write down your thoughts and emotions, and allow your feelings to come to the surface. Let your tears wash away your pain.
Grief can be complicated. Sometimes when a relationship has more contrasting emotions associated with it, the loss of that individual can be more difficult to process. Feelings of anger, relief, and guilt can co-exist with sadness. Death brings an end to the possibility of change.
When a loved one dies by suicide, it is particularly hard to cope with feelings of guilt and anger over their death.
If grief takes over the rest of your life, get help. Sometimes grieving can turn into a depressive episode that interferes with family and work. Counseling and/or medication may be helpful. Ask your doctor for a referral.
Bereavement support groups can be helpful too. Check out http://snohomishcountywa.gov/795/Bereavement-Support-Services for resources in our community.
How have you handled grief?