Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Grief lessons

There are a few things I've learned about grief these past two and a half weeks. First, grief is exhausting. Unbelievably exhausting. Especially if you have younger children to deal with. The first week of the death of a loved one is incredibly busy. Yeah, busy. Who knew? It's busy with the onslaught of visiting relatives and decision making, the details of funeral planning and trips to the cemetery to pick out a plot, and the well-meaning, but ever-revolving door of friends dropping by with meals. The doorbell and the telephone ringing are relentless. Can we say "Grand Central!"?

Secondly, grief slaps you out of nowhere, with no warning. It hits like waves on the ocean, slamming into you and dragging you against your will, back out to sea. I've learned not to fight it. To just give in and let it have it's way. The more you fight, the worse it is, but if you let it happen, you soon find out that the tide rolls back and the waves recede. Then you get your bearings under your legs a lot quicker and you find yourself swimming back to shore. We have seen God work in huge ways, however, in the midst of our grief. One of these days I will have enough energy to post those! For now, I have learned:
  • Sleep, especially the first few days after a loss, will be non-existent! Take advantage of your doctor and get some sleeping pills. I don't recommend using them normally, but the first week, coupled with lack of sleep, is one of those times it's okay to use the system. After that, you can try some natural methods like warm baths with lavender essential oil.

  • People want to do something, anything to help. LET THEM. It doesn't matter what it is, let them. They are grieving with you and, while there's nothing they can do to lessen your loss, it makes them feel better and it's one less thing for you to deal with. (As long as it doesn't require you to make decisions!)

  • Have someone delegated to take care of the well-meaning ways people/friends want to help out. (For example: meals, childcare, etc.) You don't need more on your plate to do. Grief is enough to handle all by itself, thank you.

  • The best answer to "How are you doing?" or "How are the kids doing?" is "As well as can be expected." 

  • I absolutely MUST NOT focus/think/imagine the scene or details of the accident. That is a definite NO-NO! There is positively no good thing accomplished in doing that and serves no purpose other than to drag you back out to sea, drowning in grief.

  • Listening to worship music is very soothing. It keeps me remembering who God is, what He has done, and how faithful He is.

  • To remind myself that my precious son is alive. He is alive in Heaven and one day I will see him again. 1 Thess. 4:13 says that "we do not those who have no hope." This is probably the greatest thing that has been the most helpful; to remind myself that my son is not dead. He is alive with Christ.

Finally, I know that the grief process takes time. I must give myself, and others, grace. Our pastor gave us very wise words, indeed, that day on the ride home from the hospital. He said to keep our schedules and daily routines as much as we could, to allow the kids' activities to continue, and to realize that grief and the "stuff" of life will co-exist. It is so true. Experiencing grief happens while life swirls on around you. Pastor Dave said it best in the following poem that he wrote the day after learning of Matt's death:

July 29, 2011

The day began like every day
The busyness, the hurry, the need to get things done
The norm of life was in full flow
Then the world stood still

The norm was shattered with the unexpected
In a moment the unwanted imposed itself
Everything came to a stop with a crash
Then the world stood still

All the busyness of life didn’t matter at that moment
All that we think is so important faded from view
Our world became focused on one tragic point
We were frozen in time

The hours ahead were filled with pain
Unanswered questions flew in and out of our minds
We cried, we embraced, we sat in uneasy silence
Our world stood still

The time came to start the clock again
We didn’t want to, but we had no choice
Slowly, painfully we moved
We moved back into the flow of time

I drove home alone and watched the world rush by
Don’t they know, don’t they care
I felt the terror of a life cut short
I felt myself being swept back into the relentless flow

One day the world will stand still
And time will be no more
Good-bye will become a forgotten word
When we stand on that eternal shore

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