This week’s Touchpoint centers primarily around dispelling some myths and sharing some truths about grief. When you enter a state of grief, in whatever circumstance that may be, you will face new challenges. One challenge is to “wade through” what people will say to you, usually out of a caring heart, but which may or may not be helpful for you. I will not share an exhaustive list today, but I will highlight those I find to be the most helpful to think about. Tomorrow, during our Zoom group, I invite you to share during our conversation what you have discovered about myths and truths surrounding grief.
Grief is emotionally, spiritually, and physically painful. Your body will want to avoid feeling this way, so the advice to “be strong and ignore it” may at first, sound appealing. Strength is often associated with the idea of fortitude, being strong enough to withstand something challenging. But strength in grief is not found in walls of isolation and avoidance, it is found in the process of gently engaging and naming this pain you are feeling. To go down into your grief, when you feel safe enough to explore it (and with help from others) takes so much more strength than avoiding it altogether. Do not grieve quietly, or quickly, take the time you need, and explore how you’re feeling. Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely are all normal reactions.
Everyone grieves differently. There is not a path, there is no normal. Crying tends to be something people will talk about in their attempts to define what “normal” grief looks like. However, crying may not happen for some, for days, months, years, or ever in some cases, and that can be normal. The deep sadness that comes with grief brings about so many physical responses. Crying is only one of those responses. I have heard people say they don’t know how they could possibly cry anymore tears. Yet others show their sadness without crying, but the expression is just as deep and just as genuine. What is important here is that you explore what you need, and not that you feel compelled to follow a path of grief someone has defined for you.
People around you love you, and want to help you. They will offer you all sorts of advice. Some of this advice is very much needed in a practical sense. But what is important, when giving or receiving advice, is that it is never used to push someone to “move on” or to diminish how they feel. Advice and comments like “I know just how you feel” can make you feel like your grief is trivial. But it is not. Everyone’s grief experience is deeply painful for them, and not comparable to another’s experience. For those grieving, do not feel an obligation to take anyone’s advice. Find a trusted friend or counselor who will offer more of themselves in service of listening to you and not trying to fix you. Grief cannot be fixed, it can only be integrated into who you are now.
Finally, the last myth I will share with you today is that grief has a “timeline.” Maybe someone has given you a timeline saying, “you will feel better in a year.” Or maybe they have set up expectations on when you should take an action, such as clean out a closet, or cry, or return to church, or book club, or whatever they think would indicate your grief is over. There is no set timeline, because grief becomes a part of your entire being. But time does help. It helps by offering you the space you need to process at your own pace. Take all the time you need.Tomorrow, I invite you to join us at 2PM to share in a discussion about our experiences in grief, and in this challenging time of isolation. If you will, please bring a picture to share. This picture can be of your loved one, or from something related to your grief experience. You will have time to share the picture and a story related to it if you wish.
Director of Chaplaincy
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