Living With Grief Following A Bereavement

Posted at 19:41pm on 5th May 2010

If you have come here because you’ve heard that I shall be speaking about grief and loss on the OpenToHope blog radio show (airing at 9.a.m. California time [5.p.m. UK time] on 10th June, 2010) then it’s probably because you are coping with the loss of a child, or have been bereaved in some other way. If so, I hope you find something worthwhile to help you through the pain of dealing with the loss of a loved one. At very least, know that I understand your pain, because I, too, have experienced it. The grief of losing my daughter remains with me to this day.

Many of the articles I have written about bereavement have centred on the emotional issues that surround death: what is commonly known as the five stages of grief. For ease of access, you will find these collected together via this link on Bereavement, along with bereavement poetry, and a feature on making funeral arrangements. If there is anything else you need to know, please don’t hesitate to ask.

THERAPY FOR GRIEF: WHAT IT IS NOT!

Today, I want to share with you one of the most therapeutic ways I know when it comes to dealing with a death in the family: writing. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: that it’s easy for me to say because I’ve been a published author for more than twenty-five years. But the thing is that you don’t need to be a professional writer in order to benefit from the cathartic effects of writing.

First, however, let me stress that when I speak of a therapeutic method of dealing with grief and loss, or the cathartic effects of writing, I am not putting forward a means of stifling your pain. Yes, therapy is designed to aid healing. But healing does not eradicate what has occurred. It is not meant to air-brush your loved one from you life. Nor is it intended to white-wash the reality or intensity of your sorrow.

LIVING WITH GRIEF

Healing is a miraculous process. But it does not mean that you will ever erase the memory of your loved one from your heart and mind. Nor will you ever entirely obliterate grief and loss. You’re not meant to. Living with grief is a natural part of life itself. Even the miraculously resurrected Jesus bore the evidence of his pain and sacrifice in the scar tissue of his side, his hands, his feet. Why should we be different?

Just this week, the very day when Gloria Horsley rang me to interview me for the OpenToHope radio show, I walked into my sitting room and saw the box of farm animals my daughter collected as a child. Every bit of her pocket money went on toy animals, sheds, fencing, duck ponds – anything and everything to do with farming. We are not farming people, though some of my ancestors were, but my daughter loved everything about it. It was, in fact, a form of therapy for her at a very difficult time of her adult life.

Consequently, the farm toys in my lounge are a very precious memory of a beloved child. But I am not one to sanctify things by making them untouchable. I take pleasure in watching my five year old twin grandchildren playing with the farm. They know to whom it belonged; they understand that it is not to be taken to the playroom and lost among the other toys.

INTENSE SORROW STEALS UP ON YOU

It is sixteen years since my daughter died. I know that because, unbelievably, her child is coming up to eighteen: the age of majority. But despite the length of time since her death, I was bowled over, that morning, with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. I see those farm animals week in, week out. Yet completely unexpectedly, I welled up. It was all I could do not to sit down and howl my eyes out. Intense sorrow can creep up on you when you least expect it.

WRITING ABOUT GRIEF AND LOSS

Writing about your grief and loss is a means of learning to live with it. You may choose to write poetry. You may simply want to record memories of your loved one. Or you may have feelings which are so intense that the pain of them is suffocating.

Let them go. Let them gush forth, rapid, ripping, like a spring from a cleft in mountain rock. Let them tumble from you, discordant, incomprehensible, unruly, like a mountain stream. Let them flow, healing, in harmony, like a river from your heart, washing the plains of your life. Let them become solace for you, and the means of consolation for others. Let the comfort you have received be the comfort by which you comfort others.

© Mel Menzies - All Rights Reserved

TODAY IS WORLD AIDS ORPHAN DAY. My novel, A Painful Post Mortem, was written out of gratitude that, despite the possibility, none of my grandchild was a victim.

BUY A COPY TODAY AND ALL PROCEEDS WILL GO TO TEARFUND TO SUPPORT AIDS VICTIMS. (Normally, all proceeds are divided equally between this charity and another project on teen drug abuse). Help raise cash for children like Rachel, who, at 13 is mother to 6 kids orphaned by AIDS.

NEXT WEEK

We’ll look at the ways in which you might find comfort in writing about your grief and loss.

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