Meaningful Differences – Coping with Grief
By Daniel Paul
It accompanies us in our journey down the pathway of life. It reminds us of its presence when we experience the loss of a loved one or friend. For some of us, like my friend who recently lost the love of his life (his wife), it is like a wave that ebbs and flows and is triggered, often unexpectedly, by a multitude of things, such as songbirds, songs, places, etc. It comes spontaneously and slowly retreats.
The ‘it’ to which I am referring is grief. Like my friend, I have experienced the grief of losing many loved ones, friends, and relatives. For example, when my father passed away from cancer when I was 32 years old, I was devastated. You see, my dad and I were best friends. Whenever I thought about the special times and talks we had, it brought forth a tremendous sorrow and feeling of emptiness, or shall I call it, a void. Then, there was my sister’ tragic death at 22 in an automobile accident’I was 16 at the time.
Unlike with my father, I never had the opportunity to say how much I loved her and to say goodbye (closure). This was most difficult. Grief affects all of us in various degrees, lengths of time, and in different ways. I am only giving my input on how I have dealt with it. The effect of grief is like a fingerprint and varies from one individual to another. The following are the five stages of grief that I have experienced, especially with losing my sister: Denial, anger, bargaining (would have/should have), depression, and finally, acceptance. With my mother’ death, it was different because I experienced only sadness and acceptance. So, one could possibly not have to experience all five stages. It may depend on the individual and the situation.
As previously mentioned, acceptance was the last stage in the grieving process. To help me arrive at that stage when dealing with my sister’ death was my faith, family, and friends. Prayer and readings of faith and inspiration supported me by assuring me that Someone greater than myself was listening to all of my sorrows. Then came the feeling of trust and leaving it into His hands for my healing, knowing that I was never alone. My family was also very supportive, comforting me with a hug, smile, or just spending time one-on-one talking about my feelings toward my sister and the shared adventures we had. Friends are a huge support as well. At that stage of my life, my friends were like another family who had a major influence on me. They were there being supportive during those dark times, either by going for drives, attending movies, having a meal at restaurants, and for a large part, just talking and listening to me vocalize my feelings.
Through all of this support, I was able to accept what had happened; but for some of us, we cannot reach that stage. If you struggle, or know of others that struggle with depression, wish that they had died with their loved one, or continue to deny the death, please seek some professional support that will help you to reach the acceptance stage. Sometimes, a little intervention and guidance is all we need to move forward. I want to offer a huge thank-you to the person mentioned at the beginning of this article who inspired me to write it. May you find peace, my friend (How we met is another true story to be told for another time).Daniel J. Paul is a retired school administrator. His articles focus on education, old-fashioned family values, relationships, and other topics. Go to his website at meaningfuldifferences.net, which features archived articles plus has a place to leave feedback.