but loss has been part of my life (across species- including human) for many years now.
In light of that, and in light of the recent grief with Wyn, in the hope it might help somebody I present to you the following pointers on grief:
you are going to miss them
You may miss them more than you thought you would, or less than you thought you would, but you will miss them, sometimes at odd times or in odd places. Everybody who loved them will miss them. Knowing that may help if you are blindsided by grief unexpectedly. (Music has a great deal of power to do this for many people).
you may think you are obsessed with the loss
The loss is going to hit you at weird times (and at perfectly predictable times too!) and you may be concerned that you “aren’t getting over it’. Let me be completely honest. That saying, ” Time heals all wounds”? Not my reality – time gives me scars that let me live life happily it heals nothing I miss my friends and family every time I think of them (which is often). Grief distorts time in my world. One aunt died 4 years ago and another died nearly 20 years ago, I think about both of them nearly every day. Only you can decide when to put away articles that you connect to the departed one. Some people react quickly, some need the physical reminders. Sometimes it’s a mix of both – Wyn’s crate was taken down that night yet the leash I got for him as his prize for the calender picture is still hanging on the hook – I haven’t used it with anybody else but I can’t bear to put it away.
you are going to forget they are gone
It’s been at least thirty years since our Irish Setter died and yet on the right kind of path, in the right weather conditions I can still hear her tags jangling as she runs with me. I don’t think I hear them, I do hear them. Weird? Yes, but true. This is one place Kelly often joins us.
you are going to be angry, in denial, possibly wracked by guilt, and so on (aka an emotional mess)
That’s natural, to be expected and totally normal – if you aren’t familiar with Kubler Ross’s cycle of grief check it out, especially if you are worried or curious about your emotional state. The cycle isn’t the same for everyone or for each experience of grief but there are enough similarities to help you make sense of a world that is likely making no sense. Depression and sadness are natural but if they interfere with your ability to cope with life for long please seek help.
people are NOT going to understand
Some of the kindest people may make comments that make you wonder what has possessed them. When my paternal grandmother died I heard, from someone who I was pretty sure knew me well enough to know how shattered I would be, “Well she was old, what did you expect?” so, so not helpful to me in that moment. But true really.They were trying to offer comfort, as angry as it made me at the time. When people don’t understand do not engage them. Bite your tongue, say thank you and walk away. They are trying to help. Appreciate they care enough to try. (I’ve tried every variation possible for these comments – trust me here!)
people ARE going to understand
Even though you may feel very very alone in your grief, in many cases you aren’t. People will either empathize with you due to their own other experiences with grief or they may have their heart broken too. Just yesterday I was chatting to someone who works in a shelter so sees sadness every day; she cried when she heard about Wyn. Not because she loved him particularly (though lots of people cried very legitimate tears for their loss), but because it made her sad. Deeply heart-wrenchingly sad. When people do understand they may want to share why they get it. If you can bear it listen. In a month, day, year, or decade, you might want to share your story and be heard. While you listen you might learn something that helped them, r something about them. If you really can’t bear it it seems to work to say, gently, “Thanks, I am sure you do understand but I can’t go there this minute, maybe you could share this story later?”. That shuts people up without shutting them down.
Look at pictures, print some off, share your favourite stories, hold things that belonged to the one who is gone, Smell things deeply while you can can. Memories are very very powerful and should be treasured
hang in there
Make yourself eat, get out of bed, shower, do all the normal things possible – even if it doesn’t feel normal. it helps. Seriously. I take my day job pretty seriously and in a run of pretty awful stuff (culminating in my beloved step-father’s death) I sat through many a meeting mighty close to dysfunctional but I was there doing my part as best as I could. In fact I took minutes at many of those meetings as a way to force myself to stay present.
Grief does not get easier with multiple exposures but you begin to understand that life truly does go on. Its like a pair of ill fitting shoes that you have to wear sometimes – you know they’ll hurt but you know you have to do it. So you do.
If you aren’t the one in the direct line of grief there are many things you can do that help both concretely and emotionally. Stay tuned!