Articles: Recently Bereaved

Just Getting Through the Day

“They just don’t get it,” lamented Robert, whose wife died just a few weeks ago. 

“Everyone has all kinds of advice for me,” he said. “They want me to ‘pull myself together and get on with it.’ But they just don’t understand. I can’t even begin to go there yet. My biggest challenge … and it takes all the energy I have right now … is just in deciding ‘how can I get through the day?’”

I am sure we can identify with Robert. It is never easy to lose someone you have loved and cared about, and sometimes it can feel like YOUR world has ended. We struggle to come to terms with a situation that we did not want, we do not like, and worst of all, one that we cannot change, as much as we would like to.

People mean well, but sometimes their advice doesn’t help. They try to encourage us with pronouncements like: “it’s been three months, you ought to be ‘over it’ by now.” They attempt to comfort us with their “this is a good thing” statements, like “maybe it’s for the best”, “it’s a blessing,” and other clichés. 

But sometimes their well-intentioned platitudes are less than helpful, because, put simply, the grieving person wants one thing and one thing only. They want their loved one back! They want their world to return to the way it was. And that, sadly, is the one thing that neither they nor anyone else is able to accomplish. 

People seem to want to get us “back to normal”, hopefully in as short a time as possible. But while we know “life must go on”, the challenge we face is to come to terms with a “new normal”; a world in which someone we love is no longer with us. And that is really what our grief is all about.

So, just like Robert, grieving people are often left wondering if others really understand what we are going through. And, to be honest, unless they have experienced it for themselves, they really don’t.

No matter what anyone tells us about grief and how “time heals all wounds”, the reality is that you may feel like all the meaning has gone out of life … and you worry that will never change.

This feeling of grief in your heart hurts. It gathers up into tears in your eyes, a lump in your throat, and that hollow feeling in your heart. You are grieving, and you don’t like it. Yes, the loss of anyone we cared about can be one of life’s most difficult and challenging experiences. 

But it is important to understand something else that will help you to realize “WHY” we grieve. Put simply, GRIEF is always about LOVE.

Grief the price we pay for love. It is not a sign of weakness but a sign that we CARED. Grief is a normal human reaction to what is always an unwelcome event. Grief is really just love with no place to go. It is all the love you want to give to that person but no longer can.

If you had not loved as much as you did, you would not be as broken hearted as you are. 

So grief really is the cost of caring. And we should always try to remember that the reason grief never really ends is simply because love never really dies. 

It is only when we understand this important truth that we are able to embrace grief for what it really is: a healing process that enables us to adapt to a world in which the relationship we once shared is missing. Coming to terms with this new realm our bereavement has thrust us into is a life changing process, one which usually we go through kicking and screaming, but one which enables us eventually to adjust to the new situation we find ourselves in.

After my wife died, I used to resent it when people tried to tell me this would be “a learning experience”. I smiled and thanked them of course, but inside I felt the next person who flippantly made the statement was in grave danger of getting HURT! But as much as I hate to admit it, all these years later, the assertion has actually turned out to be accurate. Of course I couldn’t see it at the time, but I now realize that some my biggest life lessons have come out of challenge and in the midst of struggle more than in the successful or “easy” times. 

I have come to believe that even a “good life” has its share of heartaches and disappointments. A “good life” is never given to us. What we are given is life. What we DO with that life and how we deal the circumstances of it … the happy situations as well as the difficult experiences … is what determines whether, in the end, we define it as “good” or “not so great”.

So while it is never easy going through bereavement, and while I wasn’t happy about it at the time, I can honestly say from my own experience, it was  the strength that I found in the struggle that helped me find the determination and the stubbornness to keep on going. I was determined that I was not going to be defeated by the struggle.

Life is never without struggle and courage only comes in the thick of the conflict. As Mary Tyler Moore once said, “You can’t be brave and courageous if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” But in the struggle we find strength, and in the process we find our true selves.

And so, as Christopher Robin famously remarked to Winnie the Pooh: 

“Promise me you’ll always remember: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”