Since becoming a widow I have become much more aware of grief. I have become personally connected to a handful of new widows in the past year and have been able to reach out to them with an empathy I didn’t have before. And to be helped by them in return. Even now, just two weeks ago, I lost an extended family member, my sister-in-law’s brother, to COVID. Because of what I’ve been through the past 14 months I have been able to reach out to his widow. Though it has made my grief wash all over me again, I am thankful I can now walk some of this journey with her.
“Every week I hear stories about people’s pain. I have probably always heard these stories, but until I experienced loss myself, I did not listen intently to them or let those stories penetrate the protective shell around my heart. I am more sensitive to the pain now, not as oblivious and selfish as I used to be.” – A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser
As with Sittser, I am more sensitive to the pain now. I am sorry that it took pain to get to this point, but I am grateful that God has opened my eyes and my heart to others, though I know I have a long way to go. Sittser says “I’m not AS oblivious and selfish…” – I agree. My selfishness isn’t wiped out, but I am more aware and empathetic.
Losing a mom is hard; I lost mine very suddenly and unexpectedly in 2018. Losing a spouse was even harder for me in 2020, but I know that doesn’t mean it’s that way for everyone. Loss is loss. The key now for me is to be sensitive to the grief of others, no matter the cause. Death, job loss, cancer or other illness, divorce, betrayal, children who leave a hole in the heart. All of these cause grief.
Grief is the response to loss. You cannot fix grief. You cannot make it just go away. But, there are things you can do as you work through the grief yourself and things you can do as you support others who are grieving.
- Support groups are not for everyone but they can be very helpful to many
- Understanding there are no set stages to grief
- Understanding there is no timeline for grief; it’s not days and weeks but months and years
- It might be difficult to return to church or work or family gatherings
- Music might soothe or it might trigger sorrow or it might just do both
- A person who has never been anxious might experience anxiety
- A person might eat too little or too much
- Keeping up traditions may prove difficult
- Starting a new tradition can be helpful
- Grieving people sometimes just need someone to listen
- Remember your grieving friends on their special days
- When you are grieving and it feels like you have been forgotten, sometimes you just have to be the one to reach out.
- Remember the tasks that you found difficult and offer to help a newly grieving person with them
- Share happy memories
I’ve seen and used the word “wave” often when describing my grief. Grief truly comes in waves; some that knock you down and some that just nudge you. Those waves that knock you down are akin to fear and you don’t want them to drown you. Those waves that nudge you will always be there – just like your love will never go away.
My hope is that, on this National Grief Awareness Day, others will gain a little more understanding of grief. Check on your friends today.