Grief and the Wisdom of Others

Why reinvent the wheel? I realize that you and I are different from each other, and that we are different from every other human being. I have lost several loved ones, as have you, and each loss is different as well. However, each loss has some things in common just as you and I have some things in common, and we can learn from each other.

This section, as well as portions of the others, deals with what others have found worked for them. Maybe some of it will help you. If it helped them survive, maybe it will help you survive as well. Yes, survival is a key word in getting through the holidays, anniversaries and other trigger days. If one of these seems to fit for you, please consider it a suggestion, not a recipe for healing. Use them as ideas you can expand upon.

First and foremost, you will need help. It might be something as simple as needing help to find a plumber, carpenter, mechanic, handy-man, etc. You might need a listening ear. It could be that you would benefit from a professional counselor. Some of your family, members of a support group, someone from your church or from your work might be willing to help you or help you find help. It might do them good to know that they were there when you needed them. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

One lady lost her husband and really didn’t want to go on with life, but found a reason to live to take care of her dog. She could never have a dog in the home while her spouse was living, now was her opportunity. Her only family was distant, both geographically and emotionally. Church (which they had been extremely faithful to attend) felt disappointing week after week.

A death had changed everything. Nothing that she had ever experienced prepared her for the changes that she now had no choice but to face. It had been a little over a month…then came what she described as the worst Thanksgiving ever in the history of the world. Christmas was coming. What should she do? Her grief support group made some suggestions, my only contribution (as support group facilitator) was, “Do whatever you have to do to survive, but plan ahead then feel free to modify your plan as the days and hours roll by.”

She made it. On Christmas eve she left town, traveled to a nearby city, checked into a motel (almost the only guest), invited the motel staff to celebrate Christmas with her, took the traditional Christmas lunch she had packed into her car to the front office and invited everyone who came in to eat with her. No gifts were exchanged, but she returned home feeling that she had defeated the depression induced by her grief, her family, that big old house, her church and even her community! That was quite a gift.

I didn’t understand her plan to get out of town at the time, but she was smart enough to know that she just could not participate that year, so she left town. And she survived.

Another lost his wife of many years. He dreaded the holidays without really knowing why. Then he realized that it’s okay to limit yourself to what you can do during the holidays. He gathered his family together and asked their indulgence to change some of the things that had become traditions in their family. By changing the location, menu and a few other things, he felt closer to his children and grandchildren than ever. The holidays hurt as waves of grief returned, but that family stood together against the waves. They are stronger for it and planning what they will do for the next holiday season.

The biggest benefit that I have seen in grief support groups is hearing what others have done, what worked and what didn’t. There are support groups that are for specific grief, others are a mixture. Whatever works best for you is what you should do.

It’s going to be hard but not impossible, so make plans. It’s better to plan ahead when you know the journey is going to be rough.