“Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the re-making of life.”
– Anne Roiphe
You’ve lost your best friend, lover, confidante, the one who always had your back. The one who made you laugh and could never stay mad at for long. You feel as if you’re in the bottom of a deep, dark well of sadness, despair, anger, heartache. And there’s no way out of it.
So What Do You Do Now?
Finding the effort to do anything at all – even get out of bed – is hard enough. How are you expected to rebuild a whole world? You’re not sure you even want to, but you know you must. You’re surrounded by people offering support and advice but you just want them to go away. You’re angry at them – at yourself – at your loved one for leaving you to cope with this alone. It’s nice and safe here under the bed covers in your pyjamas, you think to yourself, so maybe I’ll just stay here a little longer…
You Are Not Alone
All of us will go through grief and loss at some point, it’s just a sad and unavoidable truth. It may happen to us suddenly, with no time to prepare for what is coming. Or it may happen gradually, but be no less painful. No matter how it happens, we need to recognize that there are different phases of the grieving process. They come in no particular order and they don’t occur in neat little, compartmentalized and labeled boxes so you know what phase you’re in and what’s coming next.
No, just like our fingerprints, our grieving process is completely unique to us. And there is no timetable for determining when to stop grieving. The simple answer to the question of how long to grieve is, “As long as it takes.”
Give yourself this time, and allow yourself to feel all your feelings as they arise. Sit with them for as long as you need to – there is no time limit set on healing, and no award for doing it faster than the next person. This is a journey that, though you need not take it alone, you must take on your own terms. Your version of grief may look very different to that of your friend or sibling or parent, and that’s ok. Allow your heart to break and ache and yearn… and then when you’re good and ready, allow it to start to heal.
The Five Stages of Grief
When Dr. Kubler-Ross wrote her seminal book, “On Death and Dying” in the 1960’s, she discussed five emotional “categories” that she observed in terminally ill and dying patients. They are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. She observed how terminal patients grappled with each emotion, moving back and forth between them before gradually finding acceptance in their impending death.
People who suffer the loss of loved ones may also go through these – and many other – emotional phases. However, there is no set pattern of when or how long each person will experience them.
A person may experience several of these feelings at the same time, while others may never experience certain stages. Most important during a period of grief and mourning though, is a strong support network to stand by us, offering kindness, love and patience as we handle our grief in our own way and in our own time, with no pressure to move past the grief until we are ready.
A Shoulder to Cry On, a Hand to Hold
While some of us are fortunate to have an already built-in network of support in the form of family, friends, colleagues, co-workers or members of our congregations, others of us may not have the gift of a strong support group.
Some people find it more helpful to turn to an external support group in a time of intense grief. They may feel guilty burdening their own loved ones with their grief; or, they may find it more beneficial to interact with others who are going through the same feelings they are experiencing.
It is important for our own emotional, mental and physical well-being to have people we can rely on, who can act as sounding-boards and make us aware that we are not going through this alone.
For those people, there are support networks available that have groups located throughout the country. Hospice is also a tremendous resource for people who have survived the death of a loved one. Churches, synagogues and mosques can also provide meaningful and loving support throughout our grieving process and beyond.
Decision-Making in the Midst of Sorrow
Life has a way of marching on, seemingly unaware of our current emotional state. If we have lost a spouse, very often, we are also faced with the burden of now making decisions alone – decisions that used to be made jointly. Or perhaps household and financial decisions were divided between partners, and now the surviving spouse is left to shoulder the entire burden of responsibility.
Now, these are decisions you will be called upon to make. It is important to understand that you have no way of predicting how you will function in a state of grief, sorrow and pain. If it is possible, put off making important decisions that will impact your future or the future of your family. Give yourself adequate time and surround yourself with objective and informed individuals who have your best interests in mind.
If you already have a trusted advisor who has been instrumental in helping you formulate your family’s financial plan, this person will be even more invaluable to you now. If not, there are resources you can access that will help you find the right person or group to work with you when making difficult or complex life decisions going forward.
Here at Sloan Advisory Group, Inc., we are proud to offer a range of services specifically targeted to empower widows and widowers as they assume control of their financial lives in the midst of such change.
Clients work with us because they want the expertise of an experienced and trusted advisor to help sort through the priorities of what to do now and what can wait, supported by a professional who truly cares about ensuring you are as well prepared as possible for this next phase of your life. We work in a collaborative and supportive way that builds confidence, helping you to form a strong foundation from which to drive smarter decision making. Learn more about how we can help you here.
Grief Fades, but Love Never Dies
We are all unique and every circumstance is different, so too is each person’s experience of grief and mourning. There should be no implicit expectation of how to grieve, or when to move from grief to acceptance of our loss. One thing that is true for all of us though, is that – hard as it may be to believe – you will wake up one morning and the sky outside your window will be a bit brighter. Things will seem a little less bleak. Bed will seem far less inviting as your desire to be back amongst the world slowly returns.
You’ll find yourself laughing again and taking interest in things you thought you’d never care about again. The heart is a wonderful thing. While you will never forget the pain and loss you’ve experienced, those memories will gradually fade and be replaced by the memories of the wonderful times you shared with your loved one while you were together. Our hearts won’t allow us to forget.
“What is stronger than the human heart, which shatters over and over and still lives.” – Rupi Kaur