My husband, Kraig, frequently tries to help me out with the programs and/or our foundation’s direction. He’s not too bad with word play or rhyming (He tells me proudly that his father was really good at it too!) So, the past few weeks, he’s been bugging me to somehow use the name – “Grief Relief” as the name of one of our programs. Grief Relief, pretty catchy, easy to remember, its what our foundation is trying to do, right? So, then I wonder, “does that make us then, the grief police?” Aren’t the police supposed to protect and help it’s citizens to travel safely down the highway of life? Don’t they offer some sort of assistance to those who need it? I think they do. Hmmmm…..maybe my husband is on to something here! But, can (the Grief Police) really give people -relief on their journeys down the highway of loss? I’m not sure if that is completely possible.
I’ve read probably hundreds of times how each person’s grief journey is as unique as a snowflake or as individual as a fingerprint. No person’s journey is alike. What might seem like relief to some might just be a hinderance to others. For instance, I found the steady flow of people visiting in the first few months, a wonderful comfort. This support is what made our small, wonderful community so amazing. Whereas, others who’ve had losses just wanted to be left alone and didn’t answer the door when visitors came calling. Another example would be looking at photos of Luke – I kept them all out and about in my house (and added more) so I could see his sweet, smiling face everywhere I looked, others have told me they put every photograph away immediately because they were too difficult to look at after their loss. It can be so easy to make the wrong call when it comes to grievers, which makes naming our program, “Grief Relief” all the more difficult. How can I know what things give people solace, what gives them consolation when we are all so different in dealing with our sadness? When one way of coping with loss brings so much reassurance to some and the complete opposite to others?
If I could offer a little “grief relief” to other people on their journey, I would start out by saying, “no one is an expert on your grief, but you. What you need to get through each day only you can decide.” I could give you lots of advice about what helped me, but you need to figure out what works for you. Speaking of advice, there will be A LOT of well-meaning supporters who will offer it to you, take what you feel is right and discard the rest. So many people just don’t know what to say, so they use the “old standby” phrases like, “Well, he’s with God now,” or “His suffering is over”. Words that are most likely true, but just not what a griever wants to hear, since the bereaved just want their loved ones “with them here on Earth and here and not suffering at all.” Again, it’s just so hard to find the right words to say at a time of loss so just give a hug, hold their hands and later on in their journey, make a point to mention their loved ones name. How very sweet it is to hear someone mention how they remember something funny (or a lot of times NOT so funny) that Luke did or said. It is truly music to my ears! Just knowing someone thinks about my Lukey and then tells me about it, brings me healing like nothing else can. Sometimes the story might even make me cry, but that’s ok too. Since, the outward expression of grief is also vital and healing as well. It is the number one rule in all of my grief support groups, “It’s ok to cry.” Ask any of the students in my groups about our “group rules” and they’ll probably shout out, it’s ok to cry” like a teacher was asking them to quickly answer a question for a review. It has never been an easy one for me to show emotion in public and most times people don’t like to witness someone else crying either, but it is much more important to allow your feelings to surface than it is to push them down where they will come out in other ways at a later time. I’ve read of young children not being able to grieve in their own way, only to grow up (5, 10, 15 years down the road) and have various issues with physical or mental health which no one can explain. It isn’t until they begin counseling that the relationship with their earlier loss explains the problems. One last piece of advice, although there is so much more “grief relief” I could write about- that’s ok, maybe in my next writing. Anyway, find an activity (I must stress-a POSITIVE one) that you can do often to cope with all of the emotions that are experienced in grieving. For me, journalling (surprising huh?) was my soul saver. It was my refuge, my safe haven. I could write about anything in that journal that I might not say to another human being. At first, it was filled with feelings like anger and sadness, then the thoughts turned to letting Luke know that I was creating the foundation and doing good work for him, now I write about my everyday life and the accomplishments of the foundation, but hoping he knows about it all already since most of us know he hated to read! Ha! There are other great coping methods such as dancing, music, creating art and doing something in honor of your loved one. All of these positive approaches can make a huge impact on your passage through grief.
As to whether I will name a new foundation program, “Grief Relief”, I’m not sure, but it is our goal in whatever ways that we can companion both children and adults in our community on their journeys. And, I don’t mean to downplay our role in helping people by using the name, the “Grief Police” because we do take our mission very seriously. I am hoping that in whatever avenues we decide to be of service to others, we do the very best we can with love and compassion in the name of our Luke.