Whether you’ve already experienced it or not, all of us will walk through some form of grief in our lifetimes. That grief can take many different forms, whether through the death of a loved one, the loss of a dream, or recognizing unmet needs from the past. You may have shown signs with the five stages of grief outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (shock, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance), or you may have taken your own personal path through grief.
Perhaps you’ve been surrounded with loved ones or friends during your grieving period because it has been public. This often happens in cases such as the death of a loved one, a natural disaster, or a divorce or separation.
But for others, grief comes when invisible losses happen. The private nature of these experiences makes their importance harder to acknowledge. This might include discovering a spouse or family member’s addiction, wrestling through infertility, or experiencing rejection or abandonment in relationships.
Some areas of loss may seem small in comparison to greater tragedies and pain that are occurring in the world. Know that if this pain is having an impact on you, it matters. You might be uncovering stories of unmet needs from childhood in therapy, dealing with a chronic or major illness, experiencing generalized anxiety, or seeing the effects of aging.
The Process of Grief
Whether you’re dealing with visible or invisible grief, the process of grieving takes time, attention, and care.
We tend to minimize our own experience of grief in order to carry on with daily life. As others who are uncomfortable with grief urge us to move forward, we might rush past the experience of sadness in an attempt to “get over it.” We can be fearful of uncovering grief because we worry that once we feel it, we won’t ever be able to stop. Facing grief over the loss of a loved one can lead to potential existential fears, such as anxiety about our own death.
Alternatively, we can stay stuck in our grief despite years passing and wish we could move forward through it. This often happens with we feel stalled out or stuck in the same place years after the loss. Usually this indicates that there is a certain layer of grief that hasn’t yet been accessed because of the additional pain it brings up.
How to Grieve Well
ADDRESS THE ASSUMPTIONS YOU HAVE ABOUT GRIEF.
Do you assume once you start crying, you won’t be able to stop? Are you fearful of the judgment of others who don’t understand?
Write a list of all the thoughts that immediately come to mind when you think about grief, good or bad. Review your list and look for cognitive distortions or faulty assumptions. Notice how they are leading you to feel anxiety. Anxiety leads us to see only the worst-case scenario, rather than realistic possibilities. Consider also what the best-case scenario might be of allowing yourself to grieve.
If you have questions you can’t answer, educate yourself on the grieving process. Learn about the stages of grief. Recognize that they are not linear: you can jump forward and backward through the stages. Remind yourself that periods of intense grief will not last forever – they will get better over time. Research online or read books about grief. Here are some resources to get you started:
NOTICE ANY TENDENCIES TO SHY AWAY FROM THE GRIEVING PROCESS.
These tendencies can be overt, like avoidance of thinking about the loss or refusing to grieve. Or they can be more hidden, like resistance to sitting down and reading a book about grief or leaving information out when talking with a friend.
Instead of getting down on yourself for experiencing these, instead ask yourself why they happen. They likely came about as a coping strategy to survive the pain of the loss. Honor what you did to survive. Then ask yourself what they’re protecting you from: what are you avoiding? What fears do you have about addressing grief? What emotions come up when you think about it?
BEFRIEND THE EMOTIONS THAT COME WITH GRIEF.
Seek to learn how to sit with uncomfortable emotions. This might involve getting out a journal and writing or getting together with a friend who can help you verbally process what you’re going through. Prayer can be a helpful way to sit in challenging emotions, particularly if you couple it with the experience of reading Psalms of lament or writing your own. These psalms are used to grieve the pain or suffering that exists in the world and can be used as a guide to help you express your own sorrow.
Set yourself a specific time on a regular basis to sit down and check in with your emotions. It could be a daily, weekly, or monthly practice, depending on how intense your grief feels. Try a tool like an emotions journal. Use mindfulness strategies to help you connect to the experience of the present moment both before and after you enter into this space of active grieving.
TALK ABOUT YOUR GRIEF WITH SOMEONE ELSE.
Sometimes, simply naming an emotion or talking about an experience of grief can provide respite from the pain. Reach out to safe friends or family members who are willing to sit with you in your grief.
If you don’t feel able to share in your current relationships, look for a grief support group at your local church, hospital, community center, or therapist’s office. If you’re dealing with grief in the context of addiction, seek out a 12 Step group specific for your concern.
CONSIDER WHAT YOU MIGHT BE LEARNING.
Be curious about what your grief is teaching you over time. If you’ve journaled, go back over old notes. If you spoke with a trusted friend or therapist, ask if they’ve seen any themes in what you’ve been sharing.
These learnings can help you approach your life with a different mindset. You may consider changes you’d like to make in life or people you’d like to spend more time with as a result of this process. Let this new knowledge and understanding affect your behaviors and choices to better reflect your values.
FIND MEANING IN THE GRIEF.
Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, addresses the importance of finding meaning in suffering and pain. Similarly, consider how this pain and loss has shaped you or changed your perspective. Psychologists call this concept post-traumatic growth, pointing out the benefits that come from opportunities for growth and change after surviving trauma or loss. Consider a vision for your future that includes these insights gained from the experience of grief.
by Elizabeth Jackson-Van Sickel
“I think of mother often,” Maya Angelou told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer. “I think of myself as mother. I think of men as mother—some men. My son has mothered his son, fathered his son. I don’t think you have to be a woman to mother.”
With these sentiments in mind, Angelou, arguably America’s most famous poet, wrote a book in honor of mothers, Mother: A Cradle to Hold Me.
“Yes. It is true. I was created in you,” she read from the book. “It is also true that you were created for me. I own your voice. It was shaped and tuned to sooth me. Your arms were molded into a cradle to hold me, to rock me. The scent of your body was the air perfumed for me to breathe.”
Angelou said a mother did not indulge but loved unconditionally in the deepest possible of ways.
“Love may be the matter that keeps the stars in the firmament. It may be. Love allows you to be tough and tender,” she said. “Love. It does not say you can get away with this and I’ll turn my—because you’re so cute—I’ll turn my back, to something that may harm you later on. No. Love affords you the ability to be courageous.”
In the book that made her famous, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou wrote, “My mother’s beauty literally assailed me. Her smile widened her mouth beyond her cheeks, beyond her years, and seemingly through the walls to the street outside.”
Her mother, she said, was her everything.
Yet her glamorous mother could not handle her small children, and Angelou’s grandmother raised her until she was in her teens. Rather than focus on her wounds, Angelou said she used “the scar to sharpen my pen to write a poem.”
When Angelou was 21 and a young mother, she was holding down two jobs and living on her own. One day, she went to her mother’s house and received some unexpected praise.
“She looked at me and she said, ‘Baby, you know at this minute I want to tell you something.’ She has fox furs on, silver fox furs, and diamond earrings,” Angelou said. “She said, ‘I think you’re the greatest woman I’ve ever met.’ She said, ‘There is of course Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary McLeod Bethune, and my mother. But you’re in that category.’”
“And I thought, ‘Suppose she’s right? Suppose I really am somebody?’ She used to say she was too mean to lie. And she was very intelligent. But maybe it’s about time for me to stop smoking and stop cursing, ’cause I may be somebody.”
Angelou was working on a cable car at the time, and was far from the famous woman she would become, but her mother’s words gave her a sense of her future.
“I have learned enough now, to know I have learned nearly nothing,” she read in another excerpt from her new book. “Only stay when mothers are being honored. Let me thank you, that my selfishness, ignorance and mockery did not bring you to describe me like a broken doll, which had lost its favor. I thank you that you still find something in me to cherish, to admire and to love.”
“I thank you, mother. I love you.”
Reprinted from the ABC article, “Maya Angelou on Mothers”
Being fatherless at any time can be tough. But it’s interesting how a commercially-driven calendar event can hammer home feelings that may otherwise remain under the surface.
Greeting cards, TV ads and social media feeds tell us how we’re supposed to feel on Father’s Day. Happiness. Celebration. Togetherness. But if you’ve lost your father or you’re a father who’s lost a child, you might not be spending the day playing catch or wrapping up ties and socks. Instead, Father’s Day can be a harsh reminder of your grief.
When you’ve lost your father
As Father’s Day approaches, lots of people make plans to spend time with their father. Some families will meet up for a BBQ, others may decide to go camping and some will pay a visit to spend time with their dad. For those who are lucky enough to still have their fathers in their life, it can be a great day. But if your father has passed away, the day can be really hard.
Father’s Day can bring up a lot of feelings. Whether you’re young or old, single or married, a parent or not, losing your father is one of the most emotional experiences you’ll ever go through. Or you may have lost your father-in-law, grandfather or other father figure in your life.
If you’re struggling with grief this Father’s Day, know that you’re not alone. Here are some things you can do to help make coping with the day a little easier.
- Compile your memories. What are your first memories of your father? What are you grateful for? Ask your family for their memories too. Write them down.
- Take some quiet time. Carve out some time for peace and quiet. Don’t force your thoughts or emotions. Just observe them, letting them come and go as they will. Let yourself enjoy a moment of peace.
- Write a letter. Take the time to write some words to your father. Think about a favourite time. Recall an important life lesson he left you with. Pour out your feelings on paper or in front of the computer and be honest about everything you’re feeling.
- Pay tribute. Do an activity your dad loved. Eat his favourite meal. Visit that special place you used to go to together. Remembering times spent together can help you cope with the day.
- Make plans. Try planning an activity or schedule some quality time with family and friends. Staying busy can help you make it through the day.
- Ask for help. If you start to feel overwhelmed by sadness and grief, reach out to a family member, friend or counsellor. Help and support can make all the difference.
When you’ve lost a child
Losing a child is one of the most devastating types of losses anyone can experience. No parent expects to outlive their children. It feels unnatural and wrong. Grieving the loss of a child is an experience that colours the rest of a parent’s life. You can’t escape it and on days like Father’s Day, the grief may seem too much to handle. Time won’t heal the hurt, but it will become more bearable.
For a father, facing Father’s Day after the loss of a child can be extremely upsetting. This is especially true when the loss is new, but the pain of the day may continue year after year. If you’re grieving the loss of your child, here are some tips to help you get through the day.
- Spend time with your kids. If you have other children, spend the day with them. It may hurt to be with them and without the child you have lost, but finding joy in the children still with you is a powerful way to cope with those negative emotions of loss.
- Surround yourself with loved ones. You may want to hide away and be alone, but resist the urge. Spending time with people who care about you will be more helpful.
- Keep busy. Living in a state of distraction from your grief is not necessarily healthy, but on difficult days like Father’s Day it can help.
- Remember you’re still a father. Just because you’ve lost a child doesn’t mean that you’re not still a father to them. Never forget that. You are your child’s father forever.
When kids lose their dad
Father’s Day is often a challenging time for children who have suffered a loss in their life. If you’re supporting a child who has lost their father, grandfather or a father figure, use Father’s Day to help them learn more about who the person was in life.
- Talk about their Dad. Father’s Day is a great time to talk about the person they’ve lost. Share happy thoughts. Discuss good times. It will help ensure their father remains a real presence in their lives.
- Listen and validate. It’s important for children to learn how to express grief and adults need to validate their feelings. Help them communicate their feelings and remind them it’s OK to feel sad, mad, afraid, confused or lonely. And help them realise that it’s because of great love that we grieve in the first place.
- Make a memory box. Put keepsakes and other special items into a box. Tangible, visible items can help children feel connected to the person who has gone. It can be pulled out and cherished year round on birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions.
- Create a scrapbook or photo album. Young children may not have a large bank of memories of their dad. Family photos and keepsakes can help them remember and reflect on the good times. Having a scrapbook or photo album in memory of their father is a great way to keep memories alive.
- Build a memorial website. If you’re feeling high tech, you can build a website with pictures, stories, videos and other memories. Depending on your age and the age of your children, they may be 100% better at the project than you!
Supporting others through the day
While you may not have experienced the loss of your father, some of your friends may have. There are lots of things you can do to reach out and make their day a little brighter. Here are some ideas.
- Send a card or make a call. It’s a small gesture that means so much. All you need to do is remind them that you’re thinking of them.
- Be a source of comfort. Be there to listen to them and provide support.
- Avoid platitudes. Don’t try to rush your friend through the process of grief. This only invalidates what they’re feeling. Be patient.
- Be mindful of their feelings. If they don’t feel up to visitors, you should understand and respect that. Offer them a rain check.
Treasure good memories
Fathers play an irreplaceable role in life. If you had a good dad, then Father’s Day can be sorrowful and maybe even bittersweet as you remember good times. If you had a more difficult relationship, the day can bring up feelings of loneliness and sadness. Or if you’re a father suffering the loss of a child, it can amplify those feelings of loss and bereavement.
Focus on what your father meant to you and what you learnt from him. What is your father’s legacy? Why was he important to you? And remember, Father’s Day is a special day for celebrating and remembering fathers, grandfathers and others, whether they’re living or not. Take advantage of the day.
Article From waltercarter.com
To some people it is just a name etched in stone…but to others it is the story of a loved one.
[Click here] to view video on King 5.
Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, May 10, and many of you are shopping for gifts for Mom. This is a great opportunity to support Behind the Badge Foundation and shop for mom. smile.amazon.com.
March 19 is the first day of spring. Planting a garden can be full of peace and healing…”You can “dig for victory” but I have discovered you can also dig for mental health. Creating a new garden by hand, working in step with nature and the seasons, has enabled me to unpack my feelings in a more deliberate way than I might otherwise have done. A garden forces emotional patience. Plants can’t be hurried but they have a definite constancy.” –Charlie Hart
3 WAYS GARDENING CHANGED MY OUTLOOK ON GRIEF
Digging through tears: how gardening helped me to grieve for my parents
Every holiday holds meaning. St. Patrick’s Day can be another day full of memories.
Here are a couple of articles that touch on remembering … always.
No Recipe for Grief
St. Patrick and the Green Grief Monster
Grief is one of the most feared emotions along the spectrum of being human. It is often ostracized instead of welcomed as an inevitable, human experience.
One of the isolating and difficult things about grief can be feeling like other people don’t get us or our multilayered feelings around our loss, especially as time goes on.
I recently posed this question on social media:
What do you wish the world understood about your grief?
I received the following 23 responses from humans who have lost young children, adult children, husbands, wives, mothers, or fathers to suicide, cancer, accidents and more.
- That it’s always there, and pretty close to the surface. And it’s weird because sometimes I want to talk about it and sometimes I don’t. I don’t expect anyone to know which way I’m feeling on any given day, but I want to be okay with the awkwardness and I want others to be okay with it too.
- That it’s harder and longer than I could have ever expected.
- I wish that people, especially family members, knew that grief is not a switch that you can just turn off because it’s time to move on. Yes, we try to move on because our loved one is resting in peace and we have the right to enjoy the rest of our life as much as we can. But, something triggers a memory and the grief is back. So, we need to work through it again. It’s easier said than done unfortunately.
- You miss the love that filled up that space.
- That it becomes your shadow. Forever present even when not visible to all eyes. Most of all to acknowledge that it’s okay to talk about it. And, no, you won’t remind me of it if you bring it up. My grief is who I am now. The new me. I wish that everyone was more comfortable with my grief. It reinforces the fact that I lost my beautiful daughter and that will never change.
- I don’t want their husbands. And being widowed is not contagious.
- It has changed the whole dynamics of our family and I am no longer the person I used to be. I’m not quite sure who I am any more.
- That it feels like an amputation and that it has no timetable.
- That there is no right or wrong way to grieve. That everyone’s timeline is different. That it will reopen many times throughout your life and you have to work through it again when it is retriggered, but this does not mean you are stuck or not getting on with your life.
- How heavy empty is.
- That watching my children grieve is almost worse than my husband’s death. That I wish there was more talk about older teenagers losing a parent and that their friends’ parents knew more about helping their kids support my girls during this terribly hard time.
- That it’s changed me in every way.
- I wish the world knew that my grief has touched every emotion from sadness, anger, guilt and unbearable heartache. In the early months I felt off balance, out of control and lost. With time I have forgiven myself and my father for his death by suicide. There are still days it all feels like a nightmare that I just can’t wake up from. The sorrow comes in waves, then subsides into acceptance. Sometimes worry and anxiety take over and I wonder how I can possibly survive the loss of another loved one.
- How bad it hurts.
- That it doesn’t go away. I always feel it. I am changed because of it. But I don’t think others feel comfortable knowing that I still hurt and that I always will. That I want to talk about how much I miss my mom, but I suck it up because I don’t think others feel comfortable with my grief. That it doesn’t mean I’m crazy or need “help.”
- That every new loss sets in motion a renewed loss of everyone else. Compounded with each loss.
- That it hurts like no other pain you can possibly describe and yet no other person will experience this. Because even though they will experience grief, their pain will be different. All grief is unique and individual like snowflakes. No two are the same. I wish it was talked about more. I wish it to be acceptable, that’s it’s okay to not be okay. I wish for all grievers to be heard and not tried to be fixed.
- That we don’t choose grief. The mind cannot turn off and on what the heart and soul feel just because “they” want the old you back.
- That it softens but it’s something I will carry with me the rest of my life.
- That they are the same as they always were and I am not. My life did not go on after my loss as theirs did. And my life will stay in this realm unknown to them forever. I would like them to know that they will never truly feel profound loss like this until it happens to them.
- That I will never stop grieving my losses.
- I wish people knew that the grief parents feel about their child with special needs is something they have to carry and honor and process their whole lives.
- That even a year later there are days where it hurts just as bad as it did the moment I found out; that even when the number of years reaches fifty, there will still be those crippling days.
When we humans trust our capacity to hold other humans, to let unfold and be told our deepest layers of humanity, rich with heartache and love, something powerful happens. In the pause before we reach for a way to fix someone, that moment where we choose to sit with what is uncomfortable and unfixable, we find a sweet spot of being human, where all that is required is showing up to listen, see, hold, and honor another person’s truth or pain.
There is an organization here in Washington that has been assisting the law enforcement community in Colorado during a particularly difficult month.
Behind the Badge, an organization supporting families and law enforcement that have lost someone in the line of duty, has spent the last month helping out in Colorado.
The Issaquah-based organization is preparing to respond to the shooting death of El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick.
“It’s really sad they’ve had three line of duty deaths in less than a month’s time. It’s just horrible,” said Vicky Stormo, the interim executive director that helps coordinate line of duty response teams.
“A group of volunteers to come forward they have different skill sets to help put the memorial together, work with the families as they go through grief, and work with law enforcement as they go through grief,” said Stormo.
Over the last month and a half, they’ve been helping out in Colorado.
“[Behind the Badge] helped them through the first one. We were consulting with them on the second one and we’re available to help them with the third one.”
Stormo says the work is necessary but tough.
“When you have a line of duty death response team you’re mourning yourself so the team is also exhausted.”
For Stormo showing up is not just about being there those in your backyard
“We’re a law enforcement community across the nation. It’s not just in each state or not just in a small community, there are impacts across the nation as well,” she said.
Behind the Badge Foundation supports families of fallen and injured law enforcement officers.
Law enforcement officers from across Western Washington and other parts of the country are expected to help lay Pierce County Deputy Daniel McCartney to rest tomorrow. Deputy McCartney was shot and killed earlier this month in the line of duty. Two suspects have been arrested.
Fellow deputies and police officers have carried on an around-the-clock watch over Deputy McCartney and will continue to do so until his funeral. And his family is not alone, either, thanks to friends, colleagues, and help from an organization called the Behind the Badge Foundation
The Foundation’s interim Executive Director, former UW Police Chief Vicky Stormo, shared more about what the organization does to help families of injured and fallen law enforcement officers.
Learn more about the Behind the Badge Foundation by visiting its website or Facebook page.
Memorial service details:
The public memorial service for Pierce County Deputy Daniel McCartney takes place tomorrow (Wednesday, January 17), at 1:00 pm at Pacific Lutheran University’s Olson Auditorium in Tacoma. More information about the processional route and public parking can be found at the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department’s Facebook page.
Help for Deputy McCartney’s family:
Donations can be made to the ‘Deputy Daniel McCartney Legacy Fund’ via PayPal by clicking on the orange “DONATE” button at the top of the page, or by visiting any TAPCO Credit Union location or TwinStarCredit Union. More information can be found at the Crime Stoppers of Tacoma and Pierce County’s website.