I have accompanied hundreds of people on their grief journey. Because of that experience I understand so many of their heartaches and trials and slow—very slow—paths to recovery. But I have a confession to make. I have not, thank God, had to deal with loss myself.
Yes, I lost the best parents in the world, the ones who gave me the love and strength to carry other’s burdens and losses with wholeness. But if put to the test, if I had to deal with the loss of my siblings or best friends or heaven forbid, my grown children or grandchildren, how would I handle it? Could I survive? Would I read my own book and put the tips and coping tools into practice?
I hope so. I truly do. Given that so many people have told me that my book helped them so much, I hope I would take my own advice.
I’m amazed at the number of people who do not seek guidance through their grief journey. Going through the disorienting haze of losing a loved one without help feels foolish to me, like climbing Mt. Everest without a Sherpa.
Am I going too far with that metaphor? I don’t think so. Most people are surprised by the intensity of emotions, the exhaustion, the confusion that often accompanies a great loss. It may feel like they are wandering in the darkness for months or even years if there is no one to validate their experience as normal and necessary.
How do I know that guidance is valuable? Because of a drawer filled with thank you notes.
You see, my advice is there for you after the condolence cards and casseroles stop coming. After an all too short period, the griever often feels like the time to be sad (or at least show the outward expressions of sadness) has run its course with family and friends. These well-meaning people want to see some progress in your grief journey. But the healing journey isn't a straight line up.
I recently listened to an excellent TED Talk about “the messy, complicated truth about grief.” Nora McInerny experienced multiple losses in the same year. Although grief is not a funny topic, she made it amusing. It’s worth the 15 minutes of your time.
She says this: “We do not move on from the dead people we love or the difficult situations we’ve lived through. We move forward, but we carry it all with us. Some of it gets easier to bear, some of it will always feel Sisyphean. We live on, but we are not the same as we once were. This is not macabre or depressing or abnormal. We are shaped by the people we love, and we are shaped by their loss.”
Please remember to find your guide through grief, such as my book Courage Road. Get it for yourself or someone you know. Please order from my website. I also do phone and in-person counseling sessions.