My friend, Lindsey Osterhoff, wrote the following….
This is what I know about grief…it doesn’t always strike when and how we expect it. Sometimes it sneaks up on us. Otherwise, how do you explain being devastated by the sudden loss of an amazing dad and not shedding a tear for hours? Or days?
When the grief finally hit a few weeks later, it didn’t make sense to me. Or anyone around me. So I shut it off thinking there was something wrong with me. After all, if I couldn’t grieve when it happened, why would I grieve later? Now I believe that my initial lack of grief was God’s way of protecting my head and my heart from being overwhelmed with more than I could handle at that initial point. It was a gradual process of coming to terms with my loss.
Even after we’ve experienced a loss, whether we have grieved or we haven’t, there will be other losses to come up in the future. It’s just an unfortunate part of life on Earth. But if we allow ourselves to grieve in whatever ways we need to, we tend not to carry around the baggage from one loss to another.
Here are the three most important things I have learned about grief:
#1-Everyone’s grief looks different so don’t let other people put limitations on you. Everyone needs something different to get through their own grief, so just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you. People want so much to help those around them who are hurting that they offer suggestions like “You just need to pick yourself up and keep on going”. They mean well, but sometimes, we really just need to sit in our grief in the moments that we feel it. Although it may be difficult and painful to look at pictures or videos of the person that is gone, it’s a good kind of painful because it helps you reach a level of acceptance in the release of the emotion. Feel free to listen to suggestions that folks offer on how to deal with grief, but if you try something and it doesn’t work for you, don’t feel like your grieving is wrong. You are entitled to your grief and to express it.
#2-Don’t put limitations on yourself. It’s so easy to fall into the line of thinking that “It has been [however long], so shouldn’t I be over this by now?” Some days are easier than others. Some days are harder than others. That is just the way it goes with grief. So cry on the hard days, be blessed by the easy days and laugh as often as you can. Even after almost 10 years, I still have hard days that sneak up on me and now I finally understand that it is ok to cry and say, “I just miss my dad”.
#3-It can be so healing to write it down! The best gift I bought myself in the days following my dad’s death was a journal. Again, I didn’t limit myself on what went into the journal, I just wrote. Sometimes that meant writing what I was feeling. Other times it meant writing down every memory of my dad that I could think of. I have lists of specific things he used to say, things like “Don’t throw the equipment, it’s not the equipment’s fault” and “Promise only what you can deliver, then deliver more than you promise”. When my kids read the journal they will get to know their grandpa, things he did and loved. They will know that he was funny and quirky and loved his family passionately. What better gift can I give to my kids and my dad than to allow them to have a relationship without ever meeting in this life? And in turn, it’s an equally great gift that I have given to myself.
My sister called me on the phone to tell me my Dad has passed. I heard my mother wailing in the background. It was the most terrible sound I’ve ever heard in my life. I thanked my sister for calling,(yes it was weird that I did that) apologized to her for him dying and got off the phone. My husband opened his arms to hug me anticipating that I’d fall into his arms crying. No tears came nor did I want a hug. I did want, need to walk outside. It was 1130pm. I walked to the bottom of my driveway and looked up into the night sky admiring the stars. As I marveled at the stars I realized my Dad was on his journey, or already there and I thought that was beautiful and wonderful. The first tears came four hours later as I typed a message to a group of friends asking for prayer for my family. I cried of and on all the night and the next day on the way home. Indeed grieving is an individual journey and no two experiences are alike. Give yourself the freedom and respect to grieve in your own way and own time.
When I lost my Dad, I grieved for a very long time. Even now, 17 years later I still cry when we talk about him. Its so hard to lose a parent. When I lost my Dad and saw how hard that was to go through, I kept thinking, how will I ever be able to take it when my Mom passes away. Whenever any little problem would come up I would think “if Dad was here it wouldnt be so bad” I dont know why I thought that way, but I miss him dearly. Even now…
I am one of those people who grieve “late”. For example, when my brother died after a valiant fight against cancer, I did have a private “moment” after I got off the phone with my sister-in-law. But then, my usual “git ‘er done” personality kicked in, and I proceeded to plan my trip, call my wife, call others, and generally take care of the business at hand. My sister-in-law could barely get through the conversation with me, so I offered to help. She called me first because she is one of the ones who “gets” me and my style. She understands that I work now and grieve later.
At the funeral, the minister became overwhelmed because he and my brother were buddies. I took over and gave a eulogy, and found myself buzzing around comforting everyone else. As usual. I think God gave me that kind of ability because sometimes it really is needed in times of great tragedy. Somebody is needed to be cool in the midst of it all. And I do grieve, but much later. Weeks, sometimes, whenever it is “safe” to do so. I cannot always control the timing, of course if I could I would probably avoid it all together. I accept this as my gift. Others may have issues with my ways, as they call me “cold” and “unfeeling”, but I just ignore them and pray.