Grief Differs Greatly From One Person to Another
Everyone grieves differently; coping, adjusting and healing in their own way, on their own timetable. No one should ever tell another person how they should feel or act after the loss of a loved one. There is simply not one “right” way to do it, nor such thing as a timeline.
The length of time the loved one has been gone does not make a difference in the grieving process; grief takes it’s own time. Grief doesn’t necessarily conclude at the end of one year. The only people who think there’s a time limit for grief have never lost a piece of their heart. Dr. Anthony Komaroff, Harvard Medical School, stated that even after 51 years the anniversary of his dad’s death is a sad day.
This widow, now age 101, who gets up very early in the morning as a volunteer, to make dresses for needy children mentions that she lost her husband in 1952, 65 years ago and still misses him very much.
Perhaps if people were not made to feel they had to get over their loss and move on, life might be easier on them.
THE IMPORTANCE OF GRIEVING
Many people, including widows and widowers themselves, don’t understand the importance of grieving.
We grieve with hope I Thess 4:13-18
The more important someone was to your life, the more opportunities there are for both happy and sad reminders. Love is stronger than death so you will always have that special place in your heart and never forget about you loved one, even as you begin to enjoy new things that make you happy. A familiar scent, song or likeness may trigger feelings of grief. Remember this is entirely normal.
Attempting to avoid the grieving process only makes it worse. Suppressing emotion can have long term, destructive consequences which can manifest as physical symptoms. Unexpressed grief lasts indefinitely. You may be blindsided at moments when you least expect it, taking you on an emotional roller coaster. Some suffer ever after, when not allowing oneself to properly grieve their loss. Most of all take good care of yourself.
Listen to your heart. Be patient with yourself and don’t try to be brave and strong if you aren’t ready to be. Cry when and where you need to.
Facing those painful feelings honestly, for however long it takes for the wound to heal will allow the raw, all-consuming shock and intensity of grief to soften.
Viktor Frankl in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” says that if you cannot escape suffering, dedicate yourself to a cause, a person, or a goal, to give the suffering meaning. (A widow who shares her journey with other widows to encourage them is a wonderful way to start. If your church doesn’t have a “widow only” group, you might want to start one. Stand in the Gap offers a wonderful program, at no cost to churches. )
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” ~Washington Irving.
Crying is a way our eyes speak when our mouth can’t explain how broken our heart is; when there are simply no words to describe the pain within us. Every tear is a memory of a life lived in love.
Tears help us grieve and grow stronger. When we are able to face our grief, it can becomes the salve that heals our wounds and even strengthens our relationships.
The pain of one’s grief is often compounded by financial decline:
Father, You know of my struggles. No pension and since he was self employed there is very little Social Security. Yet, the bills continue to rise. The roof needs replacing, the heating system. I am scared to drive very far as the car keeps breaking down and the insurance agent said just because I took my husband’s name off he had to write me a brand new automobile policy which made the rate skyrocket…I don’t think that is right…. Noises at night are scary but I can’t afford a dog as dog food is expensive. I don’t even have the extra money to buy food to take to a potluck. I miss him so much–the companionship, the thoughtful conversations, someone with whom to travel and to have dinners out, to discuss the day, the deep hugs, being loved. Lonely and afraid, I cry a lot. I often feel anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted and depressed. I used to volunteer on several church committees, sang in church and volunteered for everything, but nobody notices or cares if I even come to Church. So instead of singing in the front row in choir I sob silently in the back row. No one has ever called from church to check on me and all the friends my husband and I had as a couple don’t want me since I am no longer part of a couple. I feel abandoned, Lord.
Widowhood is stressful.
- The Loss of a Spouse is Ranked #1 most stressful life events a person can experience -according to the Holmes & Rahe stress scale. No one can prepare us for this most painful goodbye…the numbness and sense of unreality while feeling so much pain. Stress is aging. It can affect our health, well-being, sense of meaning and purpose, cause us to question what we have always believed and create great disappointment and depression as what we expected/dreamed did not come to pass.
- years after losing her husband, it’s still difficult in many ways there is a stigma attached to being a widow. “People oftentimes react to widowhood as if it is a contagious disease.”
- Our reactions to such devastation and loss vary greatly. We might cope well in areas and not so well in others. Widows worry about coping.
- If you’re married, there’s a 50/50 chance you’ll be widowed some day and walking alone. In the blink of an eye, everything can change. There are simply no words to describe the pain. Few events can affect a married person so profoundly and change every part of one’s life as drastically as the death of a spouse. The impact of loss is said to be like a devastating tornado. The life they had together ripped apart, now just pieces scattered, and everything in such a mess that everything looks unsure and unsteady. And like a massive earthquake, it produced a relentless series of aftershocks powerful and disruptive, shaking the foundation each time.
- Grief is not something that we deal with one day and the next day we are over it. It is a journey that everyone deals with it differently. Some use humor while others are quiet or withdrawn. Grief is not necessarily going to be over in a year, yet many widows are embarrassed to still be suffering for 5 yrs, 10 ….or longer. Friends feel awkward around a widow. Shortly, the calls, cards and meals stop. She will lose 75% of the friends they had as a couple. Feeling alone, she needs someone who understands, but she will not ask for help. Only another widow can understand. She wants to be remembered and for her spouse to not be forgotten. There are also things hat her husband may have always handled that she needs guidance on how to turn off the water.
THE MINISTRY OF PRESENCE
Those who have emotional support report better outcomes than those who don’t .
- Rather than needing space, most people need presence at the time of tragedy. The greatest comfort I received was in simple presence. I didn’t want to be alone, yet couldn’t ask for help.
- Some people drop everything and arrive at the moment of crisis, while others are there for years, walking alongside as the victims live out in the world.
- be there. Sit simply through moments of pain and uncomfortable darkness. Be practical, mundane, simple, and direct.”
- While no one can take my husband’s place or make the awful loneliness vanish, the presence of family and friends can be comforting as you allow me to talk. Being able to spend an extended length of time with loved ones can be a blessing.You bring priceless joy and richness to my life when you come to my home to spend time, to sit and relax, talk and share a meal. When you aren’t sure what to say just be your happy self and let me be me. It is wonderful when they mention my husband….I want to hear the funny stories. It gives me something to hold on to in the middle of the night when I am alone.
- At first my home was filled with lots of people coming and going, bringing food but when they leave and the quietness is jarring. When a husband dies, church members attend services and console with casseroles, visits, cards, and promises of prayers. After a few months church members, and even some family members, move on. The first year, after the death of her husband, the widow is in shock, struggling with deep grief, loneliness and confusion. The widow tries to hide her frustration and fears, yet the suffering stays with her.
- At the loss of a loved one the widow will endure and try to process a host of intense emotions including fear, sadness and anger. The unknown future can cause much stress which is often expressed in tears, anger outbursts, or avoidance. Being present and patient with them as they to through this journey is important.
- Please don’t be bossy. We aren’t stupid. We are just going through a time when it is very normal to have brain fog, according to medical professionals. God, in His mercy has given us this as the full impact of what has happened would be too much. The widowed often go through a time where memory is impaired. It is natural for attention and memory tasks to be impaired under stress. merciful as your body and mind do this to protect you from overwhelming events. We won’t always be like this. She needs reassurance that memory is affected after the death of a loved one. While worrisome to her it is completely normal, yet, doctors will almost always put the widowed on anti-depressants, which makes it worse.
- Holidays, especially the first will be very hard. It lightens the load to be remembered on days such as the anniversaries of his passing, their wedding,his birthday and Valentines Day when she is no longer anyone’s sweetheart and do mention her husband, by name. It makes her feel good to know that her loved one hasn’t been forgotten. Simple ways to remember her (especially on Valentines Day and Christmas. A card or call on the anniversary of his passing is a wonderful idea to show that her husband is not forgotten.)
The Art of offering Love and Comfort
When responding to a loved one’s tragedy, tragic experiences call for “… a sort of passive activism. We have a tendency to want to solve problems and repair brokenness. But what seems to be needed is the art of presence: to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the elemental situation. Allow nature to take its course. Grant the sufferers the dignity of their own process.
- Don’t use platitudes like”Life is for the living.” or “Be brave.” It is better to say nothing.
- Be available for on a regular basis. Don’t go to the funeral and then disappear. Keep the contact up, especially around the first anniversary of the death, or the holidays.
- Encourage the survivor to talk about the deceased. Talking about the person who is gone facilitates the awareness that it happened, which is an important first step. (Don’t let him/her be forgotten.)
- Allow the person time for grieving. Let him indulge his feeling of sadness, guilt, anger, or anxiety to get them out of his system. This may take weeks or months, and even a year or two isn’t two long for some.
- Encourage the survivor to form new relationships. Often people need a friendly push to take this critical step.
- If you can help someone else through his grief, you might also help yourself. (Widow only group)
– Dr. J. William Worden, a psychologist and research director of Harvard Medical School’s Omega Project. PARADE MAGAZINE October 14, 1979
Nonverbal expressions of love are as healing as eloquence.
- bring soup or something to eat.
- Do something you see that needs to be done. One of the best things anyone can do is to observe, ask, jump in, follow through.
- Offers to help that aren’t followed through do more damage than good because they get their hopes up and then feel that you really didn’t care.
- May God greatly bless those who step forward, to comfort and help care for the hurting during this time.
- Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Mark 25:40
- Seeing something or doing something new and there is no one to tell or share that experience. You don’t have the comfort of a spouse when you get bad news at the doctor.Alone, it is on your shoulders to make every decision by yourself, good or bad.
- In nine out of the 16 countries polled loneliness was chosen as the No. 1 fear. (More than being broke or public speaking)
- “I remember days when I was without a penny and managed to survive. But being alone is the most terrible thing that can be in life.” Olga Belikova, Moscow, Russia
- In certain parts of California patients often hire a friend for seven dollars an hour to hold their hand while they are dying! Hospitals are recruiting volunteers to go into surgery and hold a patient’s hand during the surgery.
- Click to Google this string of keywords: loneliness is a silent killer
- This gentleman says when he gets depressed at 2 in the morning he will drive to St. Francis Hospital because there is always somebody there. Listen to what he says around 2:35.HERE
- Out of the mouths of babes! Hope was given to Mr. Dan by this precious child named Norah.
Hear that lonesome whippoorwill
He sounds too blue to fly
The midnight train is whining low
I’m so lonesome I could cry
I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry
Did you ever see a robin weep
When leaves begin to die?
Like me, he’s lost the will to live
I’m so lonesome I could cry
The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky
And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry
Human Contact Can Literally Save Ones Life.
- Touch may be the first sense we develop in utero, and it remains important throughout our lives. Studies show that prolonged deprivation in infants (for example, babies in understaffed orphanages or preemies in incubator isolation) can result in stunted growth and poor immune systems right away, plus significantly higher rates of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. (Source: Touch: The Science of Hand, Heart, and Mind by David J. Linden)
- The simple act of hugging improves health by raising the hemoglobin level in the blood stream. It removes barriers between people; tearing down walls that cause alienation and loneliness, which can cause people to give up.
- It’s hard to describe what a touch, a smile or a hug do for you, because it doesn’t seem like much. But at the time, when you really need it, it’s everything. Bill Salwaechter
WHEN THE WIDOWED ARE GRIEVING
- DON’T say “You’ll get over it.” A major disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no “back to the old me.”
- DON’T compare and tell us about someone elses loss which might seem worse than ours. Each trauma should be respected for its uniqueness.
- DON’T say “It’s all for the best” or try to make sense of what has happened. Theology is not a formula to explain away each individual event.
- While grieving, one may be more vulnerable to fraud tactics that play on the emotions. The key to every scammer’s success is knowing that you’re not thinking cognitively, but emotionally. Con artists know that at no time are we more vulnerable than after the loss of a loved one. Don’t let people coerce you into doing things that are uncomfortable,” Police warn that they scan obituaries for prey to trick them out of money. Ask a trusted family member to temporarily handle your financial responsibilities while you are grieving. They can follow up on any suspicious phone calls or emails.
- James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
PRACTICAL NEEDS WHEN PARTNER DIES SHE MAKES THE DECISIONS BUT ISN’T SURE
- She needs help with how to do things that her husband always took care of. Many couples split responsibilities, with only one of them managing the money. if the money-managing one dies the survivor may suddenly be struggling to learn where all the money is and how to manage it.
- She doesn’t get to ask how to do certain things or where certain things are located, yet suddenly and in a very short period of time she needs be expert on complex issues.although lonely, overwhelmed, stressed exhausted, and scared, not knowing where to turn with no instruction manual, and struggling might not have the energy to figure out how to do the tasks she shared with her spouse yet, now she has to learn what he did and how to do it, in addition to the things she always already doing.
- Numbness comes with the horrific news that you have lost your best friend, lover, confidant, life partner, companion, supporter, helper, financial manager, and household handyman.Feeling lost,like half of her is gone she wonders what she is going to do by herself trying to survive/cope.
- “The first feeling many experience early on is insecurity. Not feeling safe anymore is very common and creates anxiety because she can’t see her future. The future that she did see is gone when her spouse died.
- Forcing herself to get out of bed every day as she knows she must be the one to get up and take care of things that have to be taken care of and to remember to eat
- Instead of the two discussing and planning and sharing the responsibility the decisions are now faced with making decisions on your own….Always questioning if you are doing the right thing…. trusting your instincts is extremely difficult.
- the hardest part for many are so many practical matters, in the ensuing chaos that demand attention in early grief, when she is emotionally devastated, the most confused and least interested in things she used to care about,along with all the practical matters of all types and importance that are part of everyday living that still need to be done.
- Help with practical needs, includes auto, home, financial and Maintenance 101.A church program can provide a volunteer or referrals for competent workers if you need to hire someone.
WHY WIDOWS NEED OTHER WIDOWS
- Research tells us that only another widow can understand the pain of a widow and that no amount of therapy is going to be enough unless a widow has other widows to talk to.
- When a loved one dies, our hoped-for future dies, too.
- Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness. Rev. Desmond Tutu
- We need a way to connect widows. Many refuse to go to a typical “support” group, needing instead, simply other widows who will listen as only they will understand. Ask a widow what is hard for the and she will not tell you. However, put them in a group of 3-5 other widows- and they’ll talk and be relieved that they aren’t the only ones dealing with loneliness, depression, grief that goes on for years when other think they should be over it. A Valentines banquet is a great way to begin allowing widows to meet other widows. From there a small group can be introduced at the church (Some say the second yr is the hardest. Non-widows may talk about closure but for the widowed there is no closure. If there were they would not care (Men are asking for widower to widower.)
- She needs reassurance that even though there is a loss of friends they had as a couple, it isn’t personal, but simply because she is not part of a couple.
- “small groups” (made up only of widows) requires minimal time from pastoral staff.in order to help widows socialize with each other. (Widows need a listening heart; someone who understands where they are on their journey and to give them hope.) Churches now are beginning to have a widow only “small group” program. Ask if your church is. If not you may want to bless other widows by starting one.For example here is one and there is no charge for the program:
A short but good video about what they are doing for widows in Duncan Oklahoma to help knit the hearts of widows: https://vimeo.com/120736379
Grandma Walton on the said TV show The Waltons: People always think death is the end, when it is really just the beginning.