Grief is something everyone experiences, but no one experiences it the same way. There may be similarities, but we can never assume we fully understand another person’s grieving. To each their own… we must each find our own way to deal with our grief. Each stage of grief comes differently for everyone. For those looking in from the outside they may not understand why each stage is often repeated when it seemed the griever was “over” that part. Simply put, it doesn’t work that way. Repeating a stage doesn’t mean that the griever is doing anything wrong or has an unhealthy form of grief. Grief happens in waves; sometimes lapping gently upon the shore and others crashing against the rocks.
As a friend the best thing you can do is just be there; whether that is to just listen without giving answers because often times there are none to give, or to just hangout with them and do nothing. Whatever the person needs (within reason) try to be there for them. Often it is best to just sit and listen rather than offer trite, well meaning, reasons or answers. I call them band-aid answers. Answers that are often true, but not very helpful to the one grieving. We know the person means well; therefore we just nod our heads, but we may not readily agree.
My grief is my own and though I share similar feelings to those of my siblings and mom; they are still my own. It all began December 15th 2017.
Dad just celebrated his birthday the day before. Mom and I gave him a small birthday as he didn’t enjoy big celebrations. He was not one to be the center of attention, but in our own little family we celebrated. We knew something was wrong because he had grown weaker everyday. He thought it was just his ribs and back giving him trouble… an injury sustained at work, but at the recommendation of his chiropractor he saw his Dr. A scan was done, results came back and he was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He was admitted to the hospital and thus began our journey.
No one wants to hear that someone they love has cancer or that it is terminal. We all held out hope that it was early enough that dad would be able to fight this and be as strong as ever, be a living testimony of God’s power over sickness and death. However in the journey that lasted 4 weeks and 6 days, that was not to be the testimony God had planned for us. One thing lead to another and each test result that came back was worse than the last. We began to expect the worst. Yet no one admitted what we were thinking. We pushed it from our minds and tried to focus on the positives. I cannot say exactly where my grief began, but I know that I stepped into the stages of grief weeks before dad was carried to his Heavenly Home.
“They”, whomever they are, say that the second stage of grief is denial (shock being the first), but for me that was not so. It was anger and bargaining combined. Not the quiet anger that bubbles and then sinks back into a subdued mind frame, but the rolling, boiling, madness that threatens to push a person over the edge. I was so angry and nothing anyone said could make me feel differently. “Why God, I would shout alone in my car, Why? Why now, why him, why not someone who has no one to love him, why?” The anger was pouring from my every pore. My dad, my strong dad, who was just out not but a week before helping his brothers gather logs. The emotions flood the very being and push everything out. Then came acceptance that he was very very sick and nothing short of a miracle would bring his health back. People prayed; so many people from all over the world joined our family and prayed for healing.
Acceptance didn’t linger long before anger (by itself) came rushing back. I can’t honestly say I ever was in denial or that I was shocked. It may shock others to hear that. Upon hearing the first initial announcement from dad I wasn’t shocked, but rather I took it in stride. I can’t fully explain why it was this way for me. That is my typical response to news; perhaps this is because in my spirit I can already sense that something is coming down the pipeline that will change our world; therefore my mind has already begun to accept what I cannot change. *just a thought
Depression didn’t knock before arriving as it has always been apart of my life. This time it just came in and got a drink and sat down. Even before dad passed I felt the heavy weight of depression seep into my every pore. The “I care about the world and what happens” had packed it’s bags and left. I felt like I just didn’t care anymore what happened. I know what a harsh thought that is, but that’s where I was. Depression that deep stayed well past its welcome. With my pastor to talk to and family that understood, this stage of the grief never really pulled me completely under.
It’s been 7 months and there are times it feels like yesterday. Each day is different. Some stages of the grief make their way back around. People who grieve never really lose that feeling of loss. For some it’s easier, while for others it’s much harder. Speaking, again from experience, this journey of grief (some would say) has been easier on me because I am here living where he lived and I see everyday that he isn’t here. For my sister it is hard because she lives so far away and doesn’t have that daily reminder that he isn’t here. It’s harder to make reality seem real.
If you have read this far then take away this today: Grief is different for each person. My own is not the same as my sister’s or my mother’s or brother’s, but we are all grieving together. As a friend just being available to listen, to hang out and do normal activities, to simply offer an open mind when it comes to our grief process is really all we need. Don’t be quick to assume we are not well if we repeat a stage in the process or be quick to offer “band-aid” answers. Just be there for us… for anyone you know who has lost a friend, a parent, a sibling, anyone that they were close to.