Stages of Grief and Loss Change Over Time
By Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP , Author of When Every Day Matters (Simple Abundance Press)
How we feel about a person’s death changes over time. I think it has everything to do with our relationship to that person and maybe even the age we are when we experience permanent loss. I also think it has to do with accepting the mystery of death. Sometimes the death of someone is so shattering in the beginning that we barely function. Then, as time moves ahead, little-by-little, we begin to heal a little at a time depending on the intensity of the love we felt for the deceased.
Sometimes, however, our grief experience is in reverse and delayed as mine was in the case of my father who passed away I was thirteen years old. Rarely talking about him it appeared on the outside that I was coping fine. It wasn’t until my early 30’s in graduate school – while attending workshops to deal with unconscious elements – my long ago grief for my father was uncovered. I discovered then how much pain and sorrow had been buried when he was layed to rest. I learned then that just because my father was at peace didn’t mean I necessarily was. I addressed then, consciously and seriously, my deep sadness and loss of him. And, while a delayed grief process, the-better-late-than-never paradigm was applicable.
When my beloved daughter Katie died at 28 years of age, my father’s death felt suddenly eclipsed despite my love for him because no grief compares with the agony of a child’s death. My days now – despite it being eleven years – go up and down still where her absence from my life is concerned. There was never a delayed grief with Katie. It was more a paralyzing one in the beginning. It still wasn’t going to work for me to talk to anyone about her death but I knew that I had to deal with her absence and my choice for expressing grief came with writing in a journal which, as you all know, evolved into a book.
My sorrow isn’t crippling anymore because I have accepted that death is a mystery no less intense than birth because neither life event can be fully explained for where were these souls before they came to us and now when they leave us? To me, that is the essence of mystery which, except by faith, is an unexplained phenomenon. There is consolation there if we allow ourselves to go there spiritually because responsibility to understand and control are removed from our earthly plate and we allow life and death to move at its own rhythm in surrendering the need to understand that which is not understandable.
As we travel through our lives we will all experience many losses. Being able to pick up the pieces of our lives afterwards and begin a new chapter is a choice that takes grace and faith, friendship and hope. And we will need other people to help us. We will need family members to be loving, supportive and sensitive and never to bring on additional pain. We will need gentleness from others who only need to take our hand and ask, “What can I do to help you?” Or, “Let me take you to lunch this week.” Or, “Allow me to watch your children while you take a walk or get your hair done or go out to dinner with your spouse.”
Remember, being able to think about and speak about death and loss whether the loss of a job, our health, our marriage or our beloved child or loved one makes a difference in a grief recovery. It makes a difference in whether we feel we can make it. But do believe me, my friends, when I tell you that you will make it. You might not feel as though you will, but you will, if you allow yourself to speak of your loss and take heart to know there is always a good soul that is willing to sit with you and listen. There is always a merciful person who is only a phone call or doorbell away. There is always a sweet someone who reminds you that blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted, who wants you not only to unburden yourself but to help you through the night so you can remember to make your Every Day Matter.
—Join me for a special interview August 25th with Mary Jane as we discuss the loss of her child, finding meaning and discovering the everyday matters. Details of the interview will be sent next week.