THE DARKER THE NIGHT
THE BRIGHTER THE STARS
THE DEEPER THE GRIEF
THE CLOSER IS GOD
GRIEVING IS NOT A DISORDER OR A SIGN OF SICKNESS
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” Poet Kahlil Gibran
These past few weeks have been inundated with very tragic cases of unnecessary loss of life, in very horrendous ways. I am still mourning the great loss that occurred in Sri Lanka over Easter, and the young university girls that died very prematurely in Kenya just before Easter. It seems like the world is fast getting to a place where we are desensitized to the evils happening around us very fast, and as soon as they have happened, we are back to business as usual. May be at a time like this we need to take a moment to feel the loss; perhaps the other stuff can wait a little bit. If we just let it be, the tension and irritability may melt away. To be alive is to have problems, but there are those poor souls who are no longer with us. I am taking a moment of silence to mourn these souls, and anyone else touched by these evils, is welcome to do the same. One unnecessary loss of life, is one too many, and this pointless shedding of blood is certainly not a good thing. May the good Lord have mercy on us all.
It is with this in mind, and after a request by a friend who recently lost her dad, that I write about grief. Most of us do not want to be associated with death, especially that of a loved one. Carnage as is caused by bombs or terrorist attacks, brings grief to us as human beings, and even though we may not be related to the victims, we mourn with those mourning.
Grief is the emotion we feel when we lose something to which we have attached an emotional value, be it of great or small value. Mindful grieving is to allow ourselves to feel what is there, without judgment. Grief brings pain, deep unpleasant feelings, anger, helplessness, frustration, sometimes confusion and even survivors guilt. We need to non-judgmentally acknowledge these feelings, feel them, and let them be. It is important not to resist the feelings or strive to make them any different, but just feel them as they are.
Death is a part of life, and we cannot evade it. Not only do we grieve when we experience loss in death, but we also grieve when loss occurs in other areas of our life, such as when a relationship dies, or when we lose money, or any other thing to which we have an emotional value, which might include something as small as a pen. Strange, but true, that feeling of loss is grief. The only difference in all these cases is the magnitude of the loss, the intensity of the pain we feel, the duration it takes to mourn the loss, accept the loss, and move on in life.
Accepting the loss does not mean that the pain stops, or that we should work towards making the pain go; it simply means we acknowledge the loss has happened and letting it be, even though there is nothing we can do about it, but it does not stop us from continuing to live our daily life as usual. Grief is a process of life that only time can heal.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve, as we all internalize and handle loss in our very own unique ways. There are those who cry out loudly and are open about handling and talking about the grief, while others are quiet, want their space and want to be left alone; yet others get angry or confused and others could end up being depressed for being overwhelmed by the whole matter. However one decides to grieve, it is important to remember that our genetic make-up and current issues at the time of loss have a lot to do with how we handle grief; some people are extremely strong, while others are quite the opposite. However we wish to express ourselves, there ought to be nothing to be ashamed of.
Healing after the loss is a slow process, and there is no given time within which it is said one ought to stop grieving. This is a personal matter, and just as healing in other areas takes time, this will take time too. However, over the course of time, grief will visit us more intensely at certain times, more than at other times, and circumstances, places or people may trigger it. An important fact to acknowledge is that for as long as we live, grief evolves and weaves itself into our lives; we might never stop grieving for good; it will be there with us, only that with time the intensity subsides, but the scar will remain.
Grieving is part of self-healing that occurs when our bodies release the negative feelings associated with loss; however we express the release, is OK. This release is necessary because it enables us to be whole again, and may even bring us to a place of empathy and compassion, both for ourselves and those grieving with us. Getting it off our chest creates relief, that releases tension or stress that could otherwise lead to other problems. I remember a friend who refused to grieve when she lost her mom with whom they were very close. We noticed her walking in a stupor. On the day of the funeral, her uncle lovingly held her by the shoulder, took her by the graveside and told her: “Mary, that is my sister, your mom, lying in the casket; we shall never see her again, but she is in a better place now”. Standing by the graveside, looking down in the grave and having a loving arm around her shoulder, did something to Mary, and for the first time since her mom’s death, she sobbed her heart out. Whether it was the right or wrong thing for her uncle to do is for us to judge, but it worked to bring Mary to reality, because she had been in denial.
I once read of an interesting story of a famous Doctor who passed on and as everyone who knew him gave praises for his exemplary and selfless life, his daughter finally decided to bid farewell to her dad: “You all are talking about a stranger that I do not know of, because if you are all talking about the man in this casket who happens to be my dad, all I can say is that he was the meanest person I ever knew; he made our life miserable and now that he is gone, we finally have relief”. The good doctor during his life, so mistreated his wife and kids, but was the best person ever, to everyone else. Bizarre things happen at funerals, but if this was her way of expressing grief or relief, it was still OK, because that was her unique way of doing it.
I found the following tips by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D, very useful when dealing with grief:
- Make time for feeling the emotions that arise, whether they are anger, sadness, or pain. There is no need to judge these emotions as good or bad and know that it is Ok to feel these and they will not last forever as all things come and go. You may even create a little ritual where you spend time with the picture or object connected to the person who has passed.
- Friends sometimes get uncomfortable around grief and if they try and make you feel better in the moment, thank them for this, and let them know it is normal and natural to feel how you feel.
- Make sure to also take care of yourself during this time, go out on a walk, make sure to eat healthy.
- Try and open your eyes to the delights around you. It could be a smile on a child’s face or your own. Smelling a wonderful flower or maybe tasting your own favorite food. Even in the midst of grief we can be open to the wonders of life.
- Know your limits and allow yourself to take a break from feeling when it’s becoming overwhelming, but make sure to let your grief know that you will come back. Make a time to revisit it otherwise it will occupy you all day.
- Being altruistic can be a great way to move through grief. Maybe you would like to volunteer at a homeless shelter or make some things for those you care about. Giving to those less fortunate than ourselves always makes us feel better.
- Support has been known to be very helpful and so joining a grief or support group either online or in person can be enormously supportive.
- More than anything treat yourself with love and kindness during this time, and may you know deeply, that “this too shall pass.”
If you know anyone who is grieving, just showing up and being present with them while being empathetic and compassionate means more than we could imagine. It may not be necessary to utter a word, but just our presence may be the only thing they need for that moment, to feel loved and cared for. Sending a sympathy card or just saying a prayer, are other ways we can support the bereaved.
Finally, taking care of one another is taking care of the Universe, because we are all one.
It is still a beautiful world, strive to be happy.
By Susan Wambui
Senior Columnist contributor
Kenyan Parents in USA
We are the Diaspora Voice