Seniors Outreach - January 24, 2018

Although many of us are able to speak frankly about death, we still have a lot to learn about dealing wisely with its aftermath: grief, the natural reaction to loss of a loved one.

Relatively few of us know what to say or do that can be truly helpful to a relative, friend or acquaintance who is grieving. In fact, relatively few who have suffered a painful loss know how to be most helpful to themselves. - Understanding Grief by Jane E. Brody, The New York Times]

Interesting article that I came across this week on the nature of dealing with grief in our society. As J.E. Brody has stated, “we can at times be very frank about death” as long as we talk about it in generalities or about someone else that we are not really in a close relationship to.

What becomes most concerning for us is when we actually ‘feel’ the loss due to the closeness of the person who has died. The result is grief. Now the gloves come off and we are on one side of the fence or the other.

On the main side-the actual side of feeling grief-is a parent, a spouse, a child or very close relative that must come to grips with the loss of the person. The loss is painful. It feels like a huge emptiness in our being because that person is now gone. What does one do? What does one feel?

Many of us are not sure how to feel. I have some understanding of that feeling, because both my parents have passed on. The immediate sense of loss was numbed by the change itself. At the point that my father died, it was in some ways enabling for me to have to help my mother with all of the paperwork, estate materials and activities, and beginning to focus more time on her situation.

My parents were of the generation that “did not want to bother others” with their needs. They would ‘look after themselves’. However, after a time, the stark reality did hit me – My Father, who was always a strong and robust working man, was gone!

What seemed to come along was a stoic understanding that we can go forward. Forward for another 25 years and then my Mother passed on. Her way of coping often exemplified the ‘looking after myself’ and ‘not being a bother’ mindset. That however, only lasted for a while. Her grief and loss was hopefully lessened by our interactions. But I don’t really know as the last years of her life she experienced dementia.

When she passed on, I had to assess how I would deal with this overwhelming sense of loss! Again, busyness helped me for a time, but the reality is that often another sense of loss and grief can set in.

The second or other side of dealing with grief is those around us. What do they say? What do they do for us? How will they react and interact over time? Most of the time they may have an expectation that grief should last a few weeks, possibly a month or two, and then life goes on. Right? Well not really.

Others have the best of intentions, but the reality is that we require our time to grieve. And, contrary to popular expectations, this grieving may take longer or less time than others. It really is up to us. What we often need is to make good and positive decisions and have others interact with us in ways that enable us and consistently show that they will ‘be there for us’, whenever we need it. Others cannot expect a certain timeline for grief to be done.

What has enabled me has been tears, being upset, turning one’s attention in other directions, but especially talking with family and friends about the people who have died.

We never forget! We will not completely fill the void that death brings. However, hanging on to the grief is not an answer. Expressing the grief, is helpful. Putting pressure on ourselves or having others pressure us to ‘move on with our lives’ does little to resolve the grief.

Your grief is your grief. You must express it in your way. Find the most beneficial way to do that.

Seniors Outreach has in past years held Grief and Loss sessions and we hope to in the future again. Should this be a need, do not hesitate to contact Seniors Outreach and we will try to assist you in this area.