Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Behavior of the Bereaved

A friend of mine posted this on her blog (Thanks Em). I've changed some of the wording to fit my situation. Just wanted to post this to give my friends and family some insight on where I'm at.

"Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair".

I include this quote today as a gentle reminder to others that when a griever seems to want to be alone, that is perfectly normal and acceptable. It is nothing to do with you or what they think of you as a person. They are not trying to subtly tell you they dislike you or prefer the company of someone else. They are simply grieving and behaving normally for someone in that much pain. Sometimes being alone is the most helpful thing for them.

When the magnitude of the loss becomes too great, it can bring us to our knees. We need time to think, to ponder, to go over the details of our loved one's life and death over and over again in our minds until we can find some measure of resolution on some aspect of it.

Please understand that asking the griever to do the work - to call you or to stop by your place or to make the effort to socialize can seem overwhelming to them.

Even in times of isolation and sadness it is important to let the griever know you care. While they may not want to see anyone, a simple email, note, or phone call saying you are thinking about them and still care can make a huge difference.

Rather than looking at the griever's behavior and trying to decide if it is normal or not compared to your own, understand that they are in a position you cannot even imagine. Your ideas about what is normal behavior for them are misguided, at best. You may think you can imagine what you would do in their position but that is impossible. Instead accept them for where they are at knowing that their pain is too deep and overwhelming for you to understand without having walked in their shoes. Be the listener they need rather than the giver of advice. Each widow(er's) journey is different and there is no "right way" to grieve. Remember, they know far more about THEIR grief than you do, even if you have suffered a similar loss.

And above all, do not hold this behavior against them later on down the road. While you may never understand why they chose to be alone at certain times or why they seemed so sad for so long, their behavior was still completely normal.

The analogy that best sums up the grieving process is one which describes the journey as walking through a mountain range. As you climb one mountain, you feel normal, positive, and healed. But eventually, you must traverse the other side of the mountain. And as you climb down the other side, you feel isolated, sad, and pain. This process is repeated as you climb one mountain only to find another waiting for you. And then one day, you find that you have reached the end of the mountain range. And peace and resolution await.

As difficult as it may be, you must remind yourself that it is not about you. It is about the loss of their spouse.