Last winter one of my male friends who suffered from depression committed suicide. It was a devastating loss and all around me I heard words uttered that indicated we have lost the wisdom of the ages and have replaced it with claptrap and cliches.
In times gone by grieving was expected and supported, but these days many think we must work to distract ourselves from pain and suffering. Well, that’s what my friend’s wife attempted to do. After her husband’s suicide, she took the advice of her family members and attempted to lose herself in her work .
To me hearing her relatives telling her to ‘ get on with her life’ and ‘ go back to work — it’ll be good for you,’ after such a profound loss was heartless, but they sincerely believed their advice was sound.
Why is this? Impermanence is a reality.
Why are we advised to escape grief? Could it be fear?
All a grieving person needs is another person with a listening ear and an open heart and mind — a friend, who will encourage them to speak their truth and share what they are feeling. We are always uncomfortable when we witness pain and suffering. We fear that we won’t have what it takes to provide support to someone who is grieving. Also discussion of another person’s death is discomforting because it makes us re-examine our own lives and consider our own deaths, which we also fear.
Grief is itself a medicine. — William Cowper
So last winter when my friend was working as many hours as she could, I was online and grieving my friend’s death. I found other people who were suffering from losses too. Some were going through major life changes (relationship breakdowns and relocation), and others were suffering from grief associated with the death or disappearance of someone from their lives.
After I experienced the first waves of pain and sorrow I became emotionally paralyzed, which is to say that I shut down my feelings. I hurt too much so I chose unconsciously to become numb. Then time passed and I entered a period where I did want to share my misery, and I’m glad to say that I found others with the same need. I really don’t know what I would have done without them. I love them for the loving kindness they extended to me. We formed an unofficial ‘grief group’ and sharing there became a source of returning strength and rebirth.
I began to paint daily and spontaneously. I used art as a form of therapy throughout the grieving process. I also played my drum and chanted, and in the third month following my friend’s death I went to the Elders and undertook a vision quest. Months later I recognized that the grieving process had been completed.
I came to know the following were truths:
- You can postpone grief but you can’t avoid it;
- unresolved grief can evolve into physical ailments, pain, and stress;
- unresolved grief will re-emerge the next time someone you love dies;
- natural disasters that involve death can bring up feelings of grief;
- tapping into your creativity can help in your grief process;
- your conscious intentional approach to grief work will teach others to do the same;
- most grievers need help and support;
- grieving the loss of a loved one sometimes evokes concerns about our own deaths.
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. — Henri Nouwen
Time is the here and the now moment and it’s my experience that the passage of time does not heal all wounds. I know my girlfriend, who will be visiting me soon, is still angry at her husband for killing himself. I know his act left her feeling abandoned and depressed. I believe when she commemorates the anniversary of his death that bringing her hurt feelings into the open may provide a possibility of her forgiving him and ending her suffering. I want to ask my friend to share her feelings about her husband’s suicide with me. What do you think?
And yet, perhaps this is one way to finally overcome our grief and sense of loss; that in the end, what will matter more is not their departure from our lives, but the impact, the difference, they’ve made to it. That’s not to say the pain would be any less or difficult; rather, that perhaps this may be that light at the end of the tunnel that allows us to make peace with this loss. –Saying goodbye to loved ones