I met a friend today who I hadn’t seen for a few years. We lost touch when I was struggling dealing with my grief from losing Mum, and her husband died.
Whilst I sent her a sympathy card, what I really wanted to do was go and hug her and be with her. I couldn’t. My own depression took over, and life went on for both of us. Late last year I got in touch with her last known place of employment, who very kindly passed my message on, and today we met. It was so lovely.
You’ve no idea who someone is dealing with grief
We all deal with grief in a different way. We respond differently. I’ve just finished a lovely book, Christmas Under the Stars, by Karen Swan, which dealt with how 3 friends dealt with their bereavement of a friend. Each of them didn’t understand how the other was really feeling, and had their own ways of dealing with their grief.
When Mum died, in 2009, I felt I was doing OK. She’d had cancer for 10 years, and we were blessed to have had that time with her. My brother and Dad dealt with their grief in different ways. However, for me, I think the following few years, and different series of events led me to a depression which was never diagnosed, but had me unable to communicate with others very well. It was during this ‘dark time’, when my friend’s partner died.
Speaking to her today, she told me of her experience of being totally unprepared for the death of her long term partner. She said she’d “coped and been fine with”, the deaths of her parents and her mother in law. She never knew her father in law. She told me how she totally went to pieces, and it’s taken her years to come to terms with her grief. I was amazed, as she’s always been such a strong lady, with a deep Christian faith. It shocked me that she’d suffered so much too, even though I appreciate the relationship is very different from losing a parent.
She’s now in a happy place, although she did say that despite having loving friends and family, that she’s lonely. She told me how there are other ladies in her circle who have similar feelings. They’re going to start having regular luncheons, and share their experiences.
Be kind – We often grieve before death happens
A very close friend of mine’s Dad died last week too, so this is a pertinent topic for me this week. He’d been in and out of hospital, quite a lot of it in intensive care, for the last six months. It wasn’t a surprise, but it’s still not easy to deal with. She’s another strong character, and was very close to her Dad.
She has been driving alternate weekends halfway across the country, to visit her parents. They’ve had a hard time, and it’s been difficult to cope with the massive changes that have occured. She talked at the weekend of how ‘friends’ have told her Mum to ask if she needs anything. But they haven’t been ‘around’ these last 6 months, when her Mum really could have done with some love / care / food parcels / dinner with friends / respite / other people to visit. From my own experience, both in the past and most recent with my father in law, the hospital visiting and changes during life are often harder to cope with than the final act of death itself.
I’ve told my friend who is recently bereaved that it’s horrid. I’m not going to lie. All I know is that it does get easier, and we all have to do what we need to do to cope, and get on with our lives in a way that’s right for us. We don’t know what that means until it happens. I’ve told her to call me, or ask for help from whoever she needs at a particular time.
However strong we believe we are, grief can be a very dark and lonely place. It may last years. We may learn how to cope, but we all need love from others. That’s what makes us human. Whether we have a faith, or none, we all have lives to lead and often children, or siblings to support.
Please listen to those around you. Listen really well, and be there for people. Keep offering your support, even if it’s rejected. You may not have experienced grief yet. You may not know what you’ll need when your time comes.
Be kind. Listen. Love.