As our final support groups ended recently, I reflected on the closing topic of taking care of ourselves and accepting support. I love the way the curriculum finishes with those two particular topics. How hard is it to think about our needs and to ask for help when we’re grieving the loss of someone we love? Most times, it’s truly difficult! We think that we can handle it, we’re strong, and other such empowering thoughts, but honestly, we all need to feel cared for and comforted at times. When we’re grieving it’s even more important to allow others to help and to just take things a little easier or slower until we’re ready to face life without our(deceased?) loved ones again.
As a person who always wanted to take care of everything herself and who consistently had the attitude, “I can do this!”, what a lesson it was to learn to allow others to help me. I know I’ve said this many times before, but the sensational amount of people, both in the community and with family/friends, was overwhelming (in a wonderful way). I had to talk myself out of feeling guilty for accepting help. Sounds strange, right? Well, eliminating the “I can do it myself” and “I don’t need help” syndromes are harder than they seem.
There are a lot of times during the grieving process when we just don’t want anyone around us at all. We isolate ourselves from our families, our friends, and the “outside” world. We don’t want to show our vulnerable or “weak” side. We just want to be alone. That’s ok too, but we all need to remember when it’s time to “re-enter” the world, we can and should call on our support systems to companion us along this heart-wrenching journey.
One of the first books I read after Luke’s death was by a man that has become one of my favorites and trusted authorities on grief and the griever. His name is Alan Wolfet, a true giant in the world of grief and loss. His organization, The Center for Loss and Life Transition has helped countless numbers of mourners and those who companion them. The book, Understanding Your Grief, was an easy read, yet well-written book about what it’s like to grieve. I recommend it to everyone. I have used it many times with my adult grief support groups and I’ve gotten wonderful reviews regarding its enlightening, thought-provoking ideas. In his book, Alan Wolfelt writes, “Sharing your pain with others won’t make it disappear, but it will, over time, make it more bearable. Reaching out for help also connects you to other people and strengthens the bonds of love that make life seem worth living again”. That quote is so very true. It was an eye-opener for me how the love and support of others could make such a horrific experience just a little bit easier. When I felt lost or alone, someone made me feel connected to this world again.
Support doesn’t need to be elaborate. Sometimes, just ordinary acts of kindness and caring are what are needed for the mourner. For me, prayers were offered SO many times for our family. What a beautiful way to show you were thinking of our family and honoring our Luke! Also, having a delicious meal cooked for us was an enormous burden lifted off of me. The girls and I were running to the hospital to visit Kraig so much and the thought of cooking was not at all in mind, it was extremely helpful to have those amazing home-cooked meals to come home to every time. One of the top ways to support someone, I feel, is just being there. Whether the person just sits next to you while you cry or offers a listening ear while you talk things out (sometimes over and over again) is a simple yet vital part of beginning to heal.
Regardless of the kind of support that is offered, it is remembering to accept the assistance that is important. I believe we all want to feel cared for and loved at any time in our lives, especially, when we are experiencing the pain of losing someone dear to us. Grief is, for the most part, a continuous partner in the life of a loved one who remains here on Earth. Grief holds our hands rather tightly early on in the journey, but with the love and caring of others, it eventually begins to loosen its grip and allows us to walk without it at times. My family and I are most grateful for the companions that helped to loosen our grip on grief for us. Without your love and compassion, we would not be where we are today.