Image: Conrad Summers. Angel Of Grief. Flickr.
“Moving on, as a concept, is for stupid people, because any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project. I refuse to rush. The pain that is thrust upon us let no man slow or speed or fix.”
The process of grief is a painful and difficult one. The loss of someone close can precipitate years of heartache and sadness.
In his book (below), Max Porter writes about the process of a young father’s grief after the sudden loss of his wife, the mother of his two young sons. The father is a literary academic and is writing a book about the poet Ted Hughes.
At a particularly despairing time, along comes Crow, a character from Ted Hughes’ poem of the same name. Grief is both harassing and protective, a jumble of contradictory feelings; the entity of Crow symbolises and embodies these aspects.
Crow both haunts and helps the family and will not leave until they have made some kind of recovery from their desperate grieving. This is an imaginative, haunting, sensitive and brilliant study of the grieving process.
How can we manage such feelings? How can we gain some kind of equilibrium when it feels as though our world has been turned upside down?
There are certainly no easy answers, no magic remedies; but I have listed below 10 points that may offer some help and comfort to those who are grieving.
- Remember that there is no one way or right way to grieve. Each person’s grieving is unique to them, in both form and process.
Other people may have all kinds of well-meaning advice to offer, but if their advice feels intrusive, pressurising, or just inappropriate for you personally, then it is important to disregard it. Some friends may feel easy to be with, able to take their cue from you, follow your lead. Others may be less available, or less able to respond to your needs at this time.
2. Expect to feel and let yourself feel whatever emerges: shock, denial, guilt, fear, hopelessness, helplessness, anger, anxiety, feeling that one is going mad, extreme vulnerability.
The loss of someone close may make you feel as though your world has come to to a halt:
He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
3. Allow yourself time. Grief cannot be hurried. This may be a long and tortuous process.
However, many refute the saying that ‘time is a great healer”:
Time does not bring relief; you all have liedWho told me time would ease me of my pain!I miss him in the weeping of the rain;I want him at the shrinking of the tide;The old snows melt from every mountain-side,And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;But last year’s bitter loving must remainHeaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.There are a hundred places where I fearTo go,—so with his memory they brim.And entering with relief some quiet placeWhere never fell his foot or shone his faceI say, “There is no memory of him here!”And so stand stricken, so remembering him.
Time by itself will not make you forget. However, if the time is spent in ways that facilitate healing (see below) then, in time, there will be more likelihood of attaining some peace.
4. Talk about your thoughts and feelings if you can. If not, you may, indeed, need to give yourself more time. However, you might find it helpful to express yourself in different creative ways, perhaps through writing or painting. You might try meditation. Cry if you can, but it is also acceptable if you cannot.
5. See a doctor, counsellor, or a group or individual therapist, especially if you think have depression. It is very important to get psychological help if you are finding that your grief feels immovable and too big to manage on your own.
6. Self care is important at this time. Try to not smoke or to drink too much, but maybe accept it if occasionally you do overdo it. Try to exercise, have nourishing food and get enough sleep; if you cannot sleep, you may need help from your GP.
7. You will in time find that, in some way, you can move on and gain some kind of peace and acceptance of your loss. If you have allowed yourself the space and facilities to grieve, “With time, the veil of sorrow will lift.” Nothing is permanent.
This does not mean you will forget the pain and sorrow and , at times, that grief will be triggered again. Maybe there will be a scent, a piece of music or a place that will revivify memories:
“In grief, there is no stage called closure.” David Kessler.
In time, however, you may find that:
“Your grief will become your companion…The part of you that is compassionate, and strong, and deep.” (Florence)
“If grief is deep and imponderable, it is because love is deep and imponderable, too.
The world presents us with opportunities for connection, and the flip side of these is the impermanence of opportunity…
The Buddha taught that at bottom, the more we love that which we lose,
the more grief we feel. The world is living and dying, full of birth and loss,
tragedy and change. It is “first truth” that runs like a tragic thread, through all of our lives.”
Have you found ways of managing grief that have been helpful? Please contribute to this so we can have a discussion! Linda.