Why a glimpse behind the curtain to the deeply personal and hidden grief of a bereaved parent? Not to inspire your pity; of that I can assure you. Instead to inspire others to look beyond the surface of a grieving friend or family member. To consider how families are affected by loss, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, as well as the unique family dynamics that result; which might help you comfort, support and encourage them. The bereaved desperately want to be understood, to have their feelings validated, to break free of the isolation, to mourn unrushed, to have another share their sorrow (not attempt to fix it). This post was written months ago and is not reflective of my current state of mind.
Too Tired . . .
I do not know how to do this life I’ve been left with and I really don’t want to figure it out.
I’m tired – not, let’s just end it all tired, but physically, emotionally and spiritually tired.
Tired from staying up later night after night. 3:00, 3:30, 4:00, 4:48, tired.
Tired of trying to figure out what to do with myself, for myself, about myself.
Tired of wondering why God didn’t simply take us all home December 26, 2013, the day of the collision that killed two of my daughters. Tired of wishing He had. Tired of thinking of what the future holds, tired of trying to brainwash myself into believing there just might be something good to get up for every day.
Bone weary, heart achingly tired.
Too tired. Just too, too tired.
Helping the Bereaved Bear their Burdens
1. Offer to take young children for a play date once a week.
2. Don’t push the bereaved into activities – taking on new hobbies, jobs, etc.
3. Invite them to do things you know they enjoyed in the past. If they decline, ask again another day.
4. Don’t expect the bereaved to behave as they did before the death of their loved one. They simply aren’t the same people any more. They have been irrevocably changed in many ways. Don’t encourage them to “get back to normal,” or question when they will. Don’t quash their attempts to talk about their feelings or their loved one. They are not wallowing in self-pity, they are experiencing and coping with the normal response to loss. Grief and self-pity are very different things! The message you are sending with comments such as these is that the bereaved are responsible for ensuring that others are not uncomfortable in their presence and that their loved one no longer matters. Telling them to choose joy is tantamount to telling them that positive thinking or gaining a new perspective will take their pain away.
Ultimately, the bereaved feel both defiant and rebuked for loving deeply. Well-intentioned friends and family members inadvertently become unsafe for honest sharing. A failure to validate feelings elevates the turmoil the bereaved are already dealing with. They become angry because they have to justify their feelings and their right to mourn while simultaneously questioning if they are indulging in self-pity. Invalidation leads to isolation as the grief-stricken find they cannot vent their feelings and wrestle with their faith without rebuke or correction. Invalidation causes the bereaved to suppress their grief, wear a mask in public, hide their vulnerability and finally, it lengthens the time it takes to work through the process because the bereaved will search and search for safe people to be real with all in an effort to receive validation of both their feelings and the value of their loved one.
5. Realize that for the bereaved, feeling bad feels bad, but feeling better feels bad too. The psyche is telling the bereaved that feeling better, laughing, having fun and moving forward means that their loved one was not critically important in their life. Of course, that’s completely untrue, but it’s also a very common and normal way to feel.
6. Keep an eye open for signs of depression. Encourage a visit with their doctor for an antidepressant or antianxiety medications. Encourage grief counseling. Many churches provide Christian counseling services for their members, the uninsured or underinsured. Reinforce the truth that depression is normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
7. Keep an ear open for language that might indicate they might be at risk of harming themselves. If concerned about suicide, ask them outright. Share your concerns with their spouse, parent or their pastor. Don’t brush it off – take those words seriously.
8. Be aware that men, women, siblings and children grieve differently. Families struggle to do what’s best to allow each individual to grieve in the way that is best for them but those ways are often conflicting. One needs to talk, to be heard. Another can’t talk and can’t listen. If you are close to a bereaved couple, be sure they are understand that everyone grieves differently. Recommend meeting with a grief counselor if mismatched grieving styles are creating conflict.