Sunshine, flowers, watermelon.
And sometimes, for a few moments, you can even enjoy it. But the grief still comes and goes, even months later.
Not everyone understands that. Well-meaning people advise you to "be strong" or "move on" as though it was possible to forget a part of your life. That's why we need a Mourner's Bill of Rights and I am explaining it step by step. I introduced it in my previous blog, The Mourners Bill of Rights, The Good the Bad and the Ugly.
What do you do when grief seems to hit you right "out of the blue"? Or what do you do about all the memories? Read on to learn about normal emotions and waves of grief and how remembering is actually vital to healing.
The Mourner's Bill of Rights:
1. I have the right to experience my own personal, unique grief.
2. I have the right to embrace my grief and heal.
3. I have the right to feel many different emotions including surges of grief.
4. I have the right to treasure my memories.
5. I have the right to respect my own physical and emotional limits.
6. I have the right to talk about my grief.
7. I have the right to embrace my spirituality.
8. I have the right to search for meaning.
I have the right to feel many different emotions including surges of grief.
You might be surprised that grief includes many more difficult emotions besides sadness. Shock, disbelief, anger, loneliness, guilt, helplessness, fear, confusion, yearning and more are common. Emotions are like beach balls, if we push them under the surface of the water, it takes up our energy and they can still pop up to the surface. It is in facing them and expressing them in safe ways that we find the plug to deflate them.
An 8 year old struggled with this when her pet gerbil died. The next day, when she was asked to set the dinner table as usual. The normally calm child had a tantrum "out of the blue" because "she always has to set the table". This was actually her grief and anger over losing her pet, about not being able to ensure the pet lived. Children will often act it out. But most mourners need to find safe ways to express the emotions of grief through journaling, hitting a tennis ball at the practice wall, drumming it out or speaking it in prayer.
A grief wave or surge of emotion happened to a new widow who was grocery shopping. She glanced at the "Minute Maid Lemonade" display and she burst into tears. It was her husband's summertime favorite. These grief surges or bursts can come even months later and you may or may not be able to identify the trigger. They are very normal. It is best to take a break when they happen, breathe deep and pay attention to what they might be communicating to you.
I have the right to treasure my memories.
Even decades after high school, most of us still have many memories of it. If we don't forget that, why would we forget our loved one who was an integral part of our life and part of us. Don't let any misguided person try to tell you to put away your photos and not think about them in an attempt to save you from pain.
Facing it gently and in "doses" is how it will begin to soften. By "doses" I mean take a limited amount, then a take break from it too. Here's an exercise to help you lean in but without facing it all at once: Quickly brainstorm 5-10 characteristics of the person who died and then reflect on them. Enjoy them, understand them, appreciate or alternately, forgive them. Now take a break and go smell the roses or invite an understanding friend to join you at an outdoor cafe or a baseball game.
Remembering helps us to understand who we have been and it helps us decide who we will be in the future. As Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward". When someone we love dies, we never forget them and we still love them. But continuing to love them is not to the exclusion of loving the living. We honor the love they have given us by "paying it forward" to love our family and friends around us. Gently embracing past experiences makes us open to new ones.
Hope you enjoyed learning, more next time!
BIG Hugs and ALL my Best,
Check out other helpful blog articles including :
plus helpful Renewing Resilience Tips. or scroll down for more
If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve. For additional resources, including a no-obligation introduction coaching session with Helga Bender, MThS, for help, relief and rebuilding life again click here.
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