Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Journey Through The Grieving Process

Losing a loved one can be the hardest of life's experiences. But evidence from the Bible and beyond suggests the death of the physical body is not be the end of the road, but a mere transition, it is one step in the grieving process.

There is no simple way through the grieving process, I know because I've been there.

In 2007 I lost my Mom, Grandmother and Grandfather within a few months of each other and a year later a Sister. I have lost relatives to death before, many in fact, but these were different. This was the first parent I've lost and I was always close to my maternal grandparents and sister - all of my sisters. When someone this close to us dies, we are devastated; I was devastated - on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. I hadn't had much of a chance to grieve the loss of my mother; I have had no closure - she willed her body to science. But I think the finality of a casket getting wheeled out of a church would have been a sight I could never shake.

When my grandfather (my dad's dad) died in 1987, I was told never to touch a dead person because I would always remember the coldness, the lifelessness of that person. I did touch grandpa's hand, but my memories of him are not visions of him lying in a casket. The memories I have of him are in his garden, or talking to me and my dad about the goings on in Hawkinsville.

Eventually, you find your own way to grieve and then with the help of family and friends hopefully you were guided as I was to outside resources for help.

Initially I recall reading books that talked about some essential points for the grieving-healing process, here are just a few points I found helpful;

  1. Recognize the significance of your loss.
  2. Tell people the story of your relationship with your loved one, in other words talk about what your loved one meant in your life.
  3. Be sure you have a safe environment when talking and seeking comfort and stay connected to others because you don't have to be alone in your grief.
  4. Be open to the pain and hurt you feel, you may think its easier to avoid that pain but eventually those emotions will surface and demand your attention.
  5. Expect to experience different stages such as shock, denial, anger, sadness and eventually hope.
  6. Learn from other people who have already experienced loss because their survival is comforting and an example that you too will endure and find joy again.
  7. Gaining some knowledge of the grief process by reading or talking to a counselor grief group or clergyman will help.
It is said that time is a great healer, but time can never replace those that have passed on. We do however learn to cope without them, and in facing their loss we gain understanding. Though the loss hurts, and continues to hurt, we come to realize that our tears are for ourselves, for our loved ones have moved on, or more accurately returned home. We are the ones who are on a journey, and we are on that journey because we are meant to be so. We have chosen it, and it has been agreed by God. As such we have a duty to make the most of our time in our own way as our loved ones made the most of theirs.

Our loved ones live on in our memories. Everything they achieved (and we all achieve many things, even if we don't realize it) lives on, and continues to have influence. But furthermore, there is no death. The concept is not ludicrous. In science, matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Life is the momentary marriage of a soul with a physical body. The end of life is the parting of the ways of this relationship, with the atoms and molecules that formed the body being transformed and the soul returning from whence it came.

Though our Spiritual nature is largely hidden during our incarnation in order that we may best fulfill our life purpose, it is evidenced for example by our free will, and our artistic and religious interests for which there are no purely scientific grounds. It is also evidenced by those many little glimpses that we see when we love someone and feel complete by their company here on Earth.

Not only may we rest assured that our loved ones continue to exist, we can be sure that we shall some day be reunited. But we don't have to wait until the end of our journey, for as Spiritual beings we already inhabit the same realm as those who have passed on.

With this knowledge, accept what has happened. Keep the memories of your departed close to your heart. Think and talk about them often. Invite them to come into your life. Just because they're no longer live in the 'same neighborhood' doesn't mean they're no longer anywhere. And resolve to value, and make the most of your own particular life. Ask yourself (ie them) what they want you to do, sit around moping, or get on and make the best of your own journey. You'll know what they say, so get on with it knowing they're sharing the journey with you.

Grief and loss are inherent parts of life. No one gets off scott free from facing the emotional and physical pain of accepting the death of a loved one. Yet, all too frequently, we maximize our pain out of a lack of insight into the reality of major change and the common problems of adapting to life without the beloved.

Grieving isn't cut and dried while death certainly is; everyone will respond a little differently. For those of us who have lost a loved one either because of age or unexpectedly through accident or disease, grieving manifests itself in different ways and can take months to years to finally come to terms with their death. I'm not sure as to where I am in the grieving process of Mama, Grandma, Bob and my older sister.

Memories of a dear loved one need not be closeted in the recesses of your mind. Memories can live with you in many different ways. You see, it's not that you can't or shouldn't move forward with life. You should. But, there are unique or special tributes that can pay homage to a loved one, special ways that they can always be there with you as you also continue on with life just as your loved one would want.


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