Today marks halfway through our Virtual Bereavement Support Group where our participants have shared their stories and pictures, laughed, and cried together using Zoom. It has been an incredible learning experience for all as we navigate this new way of connecting to one another. The group continues to be open to anyone to participate, you need not have attended the other sessions, although, it may be helpful for you to read back through these blogs.
This week’s topic of discussion is “unfinished business.” This is an umbrella term which encompasses more than I can express in this short blog. However, the real work of processing your grief is in learning about yourself. What your “unfinished business” is, I cannot tell you, but I can guide you in thinking on this. As anyone who has experienced the trauma of grief knows; it is one of the biggest stressors that can lay on the human heart. When grieving the death of a loved one, often we are also grieving the loss of a part of ourselves, our identity can sometimes feel as if it’s shattered on the floor. To some, this is a difficult time to manage the often petty and frustrating “business” of the world.
A massive hurdle in the time following a loss is feeling like being pulled in two different directions. In one direction you must locate yourself (as we talked about previously, the touchpoints, the anchor to reality). In another direction, the “real world” is tugging at you, all the “business” of this world, because even during difficult times there will be tasks ahead, life will continue on. I like to use the image of pushing through a field of tall grass in imagining this. It’s hard to see through it, each blade tugs at you in a different way, and it is hard to be present in the moment when all you want to do is get to a clear opening.
Each blade of grass can represent tangible tasks you must complete, like settling your loved one’s estate, funeral arrangements, bills, and possibly changing your own living arrangements. The blades could be intangible as well, like when your task is to ask for support, or to reconnect with a friend or family member in a new way. Maybe all the blades of grass are simply getting up in the morning. Each of these may feel insurmountable at times. However, each can be used in their own way to help you process and grieve. They are each a step in learning about who you are now, and honoring your loved one.
What unfinished business has followed your grief? Has it been a challenge to navigate, or a welcome distraction? What about unfinished business that has no real resolution?
As a problem solver myself, the idea that a part of my unfinished business may have no satisfactory solution is troubling to me. Because sometimes that business is work that you wish had happened before you experienced this grief. When I think about my adoptive father’s death seven years ago, I wish I had showed him more appreciation for how much he taught me, for how he took young girl without a father in her life and taught her to play poker and catch a baseball.
This is when kindness makes an important entrance into grief work. Show kindness to yourself. Whenever you say “I wish I had…” finish the sentence, and then follow it with a statement of kindness to yourself. Be patient with these tasks and these feelings. Ask for help. When you feel that heaviness of unfinished business, in whatever form it may take; call a trusted person who listens well, and share that heaviness, speak it out loud. You may not have a solution arise, but trust me, you will have new insights afterwards.
This week in our group, I welcome you to join in sharing your experiences of unfinished business after grief. No doubt this discussion will help us to process this grief during this isolating pandemic as well. Unfinished business will play a huge part of everyone’s life in the coming months and years. We will have to work together to decide which business we must finish, and what we can let go of, and how we can show kindness to ourselves and others.
For tomorrow, I ask that you bring with you to group a “helpful condolence expression.” Share with the group something that someone said or did that was helpful to you. Our group is every Tuesday at 2pm, and generally lasts about one and a half hours. Click the link below for more information on how to join us, everyone is welcome, no registration required.
If you would like to schedule one-on-one support with me via Zoom, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit: Carlo LaFiandra, HHSCW volunteer