No child ever wants to see their parents cry. Almost a year ago now, my Mum’s tears woke me up early on a Tuesday morning. Not knowing what to expect, I crept down the stairs to find the rest of my family huddled around the dining table. Everyone was crying.
A very close family friend of ours had lost her son in a tragic car accident during the night. I remember visiting the family home one night to pay our respects. In the car Mum said to me, “Prepare yourself. This is a very sad house.” I had no idea what to expect. What do you say to a grieving family?
I could feel the energy as we entered the street. It was almost as if the entire neighbourhood was in mourning. In the front room were twenty or more young men sitting around in a circle, his Mum in the middle.
Some were laughing, others were crying. A few sat in silence with their heads hung low and their arms crossed in front of them.
I remember looking sideways at my Mum wondering how anyone in this house could be laughing. Shouldn’t everyone be crippling with grief?
I learnt a lot about grieving in the coming weeks; lessons that can only be learnt through experience.
It’s only now that I can look back and appreciate that the laughter and the shared memories are far more painful than any tears could ever be. Sitting and talking with a Mother who had just lost her second son was something I will never forget.
The seven stages of grief absolutely exist. Shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and finally acceptance. They come in waves, and there is no acceptable time frame in which one can pass through them. You might be stuck in one stage for weeks, months, even years or you might get through two or three and find yourself back at square one but they are absolutely true and absolutely real.
Funerals are scheduled grieving. Accept and embrace that. Don’t hold back. Cry as hard and as loud as you need too. Don’t be afraid of your makeup running (in fact, probably don’t wear any). Wear sunglasses if it makes you more comfortable. Let it all out. Every single person there in that room is feeling the same pain, maybe more, maybe less.
Don’t be ashamed if you deal with grief in a non-conventional way. Not everyone grieves in the same way. Don’t let others intimidate you into justifying your emotions. In no way do tears or sadness measure pain. Find what works for you. Read, draw, paint, ride, run, swim, make things or break things. Do what you need to help you get through your loss.
Don’t be confused if you find yourself grieving over past losses. This one caught me the most off guard. I found myself in all sorts remembering past grieving experiences; the death of my dog, my parent’s divorce, broken friendships. At times I couldn’t decide what I was crying hardest over. But, like everything in life, it happened for a reason.
It made me realize the most important lesson of all: I (and you,) will probably grieve your whole life. It might not be every day, or every week or even every month but there will be times and there will be things that remind you of what you have lost. It could be a photo, a song, somebodies laugh or it might come to you in a passing thought. Sometimes you might brush it off. Others you might feel more deeply. Either is okay. Grief is real and you can live comfortably with grief.
That isn’t to say that grief will consume your life. In the beginning it’s normal to feel as if you can never move past this, like you will never again experience happiness. This isn’t true. I am a big believer in time heals all wounds. Don’t be afraid to seek help and don’t be ashamed of what you are feeling.
Dealing with loss and death are one of the hardest challenges life throws at us but with a little help and a lot of faith you too, just like I’ve learnt to, can move on.