Sunday, May 24, 2015

Dealing with Grief and Sorrow Part 6

          One stage of grief not listed, except as a sub-effect on the seven stages list, is loneliness. Since that is one of the most engulfing and long lasting effects of the loss of spouse, I’m adding loneliness as one of the major stages of grief and sorrow. Loneliness becomes a major portion of each and every stage of grief. The empty feeling of needing someone to share our thoughts, our lives, our needs, and our victories describes loneliness caused by the death of our loved one.

         Loneliness and solitude are not synonymous. One chooses solitude, but loneliness invades us through an overwhelming sense of our loss. No, unless we become so lost in our loneliness that we need professional help, the isolation doesn’t surround us all the time, but we never know when it will hit or where.

        Most people do not know how to deal with the grief someone else feels. Our society tends to be uncomfortable around people who grieve. We are expected to grieve alone, behind closed doors as others go back to their lives. People may have good intentions, but they forget to call or visit. Many, because they don’t know what to say or do, hope someone else will help. 

        Understanding friends and family members can make a big difference with just a bit of effort. I have one friend who calls or texts me two three times a week. She comes by once or twice a week for short visits. No, one person can’t fill all the empty spots, but she helps so much. Another, newer friend, is alone, too, and she and I have developed a closeness that helps both of us. The phone call and texts from one of my great-granddaughters to check on me gladdened my heart and brightened my days. 

         One of my former students has been so kind about helping. When I wanted to purchase eggs from one of his children, he said that they would give me eggs, that his children needed to learn compassion, and that the Bible says we are to care for orphans and widows. He lost his mother, one of my closest friends, years ago, and he understands. I wonder if parents are failing to teach their children compassion. Are we so uncomfortable about death and grief that we “protect” our children from understanding?

       I have a strong faith, which gives me a strength that allows me to survive most of the overwhelming, crushing loneliness. However, sometimes I don’t know if I can endure being alone. An example, I won two awards in the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. (OWFI) writing contest. Some friends and family told me how glad they were I won, but I couldn’t really share what winning meant to me. Robert would have been proud of me, as he so often was. I could have shared with him, more than once, how I felt. Of course, he would have bragged at dialysis. I miss having someone who cares so much about me

       In our “fast” society, the prevailing attitude is, “get over it,” “get on with your life,” “haven’t you taken long enough?” Only those who have lost their spouse or another loved one understand that no time limit exists for grief, especially for the loneliness caused by grief. We must overcome our lives being torn to pieces, put the pieces together for a “new normal,” knowing that a major portion of our lives is gone. 

      Allow me to share some suggestions for coping with loneliness found on
·  Think about who is supportive to you in your environment and what gives your life purpose and direction (family members, pets, relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, teachers, colleagues, clubs, athletic activities, groups, church groups, support groups, bereavement counselor). With whom are you most comfortable, and who is the most comfortable (accepting and caring) with your grief? Look for those who will listen without judging you, or for those who have suffered a similar loss.

·  Find time with others to talk, to touch, to receive support. Be honest with others about what you’re feeling. Allow yourself to express your sadness rather than masking it.

·  Don’t expect others to guess what you need. When you want to be touched, held, hugged, listened to or pampered, say so. (A suggestion from me to those who want to help: call, don’t wait to be called.)

·  If all you want from others is help with simple errands, tasks, and repairs, say so.

·  Let others (especially children) know if and when you need to be alone, so they won’t feel rejected.

·  Go somewhere and have a good, long cry— and do it as often as you wish. You have every right to miss the person who has died. Accept your feelings as normal.

·  Find time alone to process what’s happened: to remember, to dream, and to think.

·  Identify your loneliest times, and think of how you can alter your routines and environment (for example, rearrange the furniture in a room; plan your weekends ahead of time; use your microwave for quick, easy meals).

·  While some folks really are thoughtless and don’t think before they speak, bear in mind that many well meaning individuals have yet to experience a significant loss, so they really don’t know what grief feels like, or how to respond, or what to say. They aren’t deliberately trying to hurt you. You can choose to bear with such people, you can enlighten them about what you know of grief, or you can look to others who are more understanding to find the support you need.

·  Realize that no one can totally understand the relationship you had with your loved one.

·  Ask people to remember, talk about and share stories about your loved one with you.

·  Become more aware of how your own usage of words affects other people. Rather than saying something hurtful, admit that you don’t know what to say.

·  Consider getting a companion animal (which can be a wonderful source of unconditional love), but only after you’ve investigated what kind of pet would suit you and your lifestyle. (Note from me: I already have one, a seven-month-old cat named Panther, who still searches the garage trying to find Robert.)

    Loneliness is a normal part of grief and sorrow. However, if that feeling of isolation completely overtakes our lives, we need to seek professional help. Even if we believe we are coping, sometimes joining a group can help. I plan on joining a grief recovery program this week, where attendees don’t sit around sharing sorrow and becoming even sadder, but where we can learn ways to help us rebuild our lives. I know a part of me is missing, and I know I will always have some loneliness. However, with God’s help and the help of people who care, I will put the pieces back together and have a new normal.

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