Welcome to Widow(er) Wednesday, where I share what worked, what didn’t work and what could work better.
How to support the grieving: Accept that loss is a life-altering experience
Time is a social construct and created through thinking. Grieving is an act of the heart and does not understand what the brain is talking about. If we are to better support those who grieve we need to let go of the expectation that someone who has had a great loss will one day go back to being how they used to be. Losing a loved one is a life-changing event and like all other life-changing events it alters how we live in the world. We change when we become parents, fall in love, move countries or switch careers and no one expects us to go back to how we used to be before these things happened. If we could accept that the loss of a loved one is a life altering experience and expect that those who have lost a loved one will change and that it will be okay, then we would all be ahead of the game.
In Widow Wednesday #8 I reflected on how grief changes over time. This is both a hopeful reality and a fascinating phenomenon. In the early days it was unfathomable to me that loss could affect every aspect of my day to a degree I could never have imagined. Yet, somehow I walked through those days even if at times it felt more like crawling and more than once I had to pick myself off the floor to keep moving. Losing my husband changed me; it destroyed the story I’d written for my life and made me re-think about what was important to me. Consequently, I had to find a new to live. This was something I did not know would happen.
I thought that a day would come when my feelings of loss would simply and forever disappear completely. I would be healed and I would go back to living some slightly altered version of the life I lived before. I had to learn that there is no such day and that I will never again be the person I once was. This is one of the hardest truths about loss.
This is the truth I refer to when I tell others we do not move on but move forward and that it takes time to learn how to incorporate our grief stories into our life stories. And that it can be no other way. None of this implies that a time will come when this process has an end point. I am cautious about revealing this truth to those who are grieving and in pain. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. When I do, I acknowledge that loss and grief will come again (because in life it does) and that next time you will be less surprised and in some ways better prepared because now you know that this is possible. This has happened to me and to those I know who too have lost loved ones. It is a part of the changed me.
It will take time to change the misbelief that losing a loved one is not a life-altering experience, which is why it is so important that we start talking about it now. It would be a shame if the only way to learn this truth continues to be through losing someone we dearly love. Because then we will have failed to support those who grieve as well as we can. Surely, we are smart enough to begin by entertaining the possibility that this is true and hopefully one day we will all accept it as such.
Till next time,
To learn more about Heike (Author: “Grief is…”) click here