“Many devoted caregivers give so much of their lives intensely involved in providing specialized care to an “end of life” senior. Sadly, they often fail to adequately prepare themselves for the long and winding journey through the grieving process after their loved ones have passed away. Can they find themselves as they search for true healing?”
As we get older, we learn to contemplate death more. We soon realize that it’s not a cartoon. And it is not something that only happens across town. The reality of dying then becomes more tangible to us. This is why when we lose a loved one who had been so close to us in our lives, we are forced to personalize death. It then begins shaping our thoughts about how we feel about ourselves. The world in which we once perceived it to be is not the same to us. The idea of endings become more concrete.
Yet, the only thing different is the fact that someone whom we loved very much is gone. Truth is: Our view of the world depends on others. It depends on our perception of it and how we feel about it at that time. So, how do we really feel about ourselves after losing a loved one? In the aftermath, can we effectively cope with our new identities within us? …because it is all about us, isn’t it?
For many, death is a topic that can have different meanings to us at different times of our lives. As very small kids, we have a tendency to not place too much significance on it. Why should we? Our lives are just beginning. Playing, being loved, and looking for acceptance are our main desires. Have you every noticed that after very small tots lose parents to untimely deaths, they appear to adjust better with their lost than many adults? Maybe they hardly recall the deep parent-child experience after it had been prematurely cut off at that age.
Even though there may have been a significant amount of closeness in the short term, they still recover sooner that adults. Many times that lasting bond formed by closeness and frequent interaction never gets a chance to imprint enough on the child’s brain to cause long-term grieving.
However, when individuals develop a sort of symbiotic relationship between each other–whether families or other companions–the grieving process then becomes much more difficult. We know only too well that every death does not affect us in the same manner. So when we lose those psychological anchors in our lives, we become lost at sea. Were not we more secure than not when that person had been alive and around us when we needed them? Our world had more meaning. …And now they are gone.
Sadly, we have lost more than just a parent or significant other. We have lost our friend, our confidant, our protagonist, our sense of security, and our psychological support. This is why mother–daughter, son–mother, father–daughter and father–son relationships often can be everlasting. …even in death. And frankly, we might not be ready or willing to let go of that right now. The closeness which you both shared between each other still exists. The spirit talks when no one else can hear it. Death does not dissolve those types of relationships.
This is why no one should ever put their expectations on someone’s “healing time” after they have lost someone. Some of us never get over a death. Someone telling you to, “just get over it” , is never on the same page—friend or foe. Are we wrong? Who can truly say? There are no rules in the grieving process. Like I said, some of us never recover from losses.
Still, we have to go on with our physical lives. We still have to get up in the morning. Sometimes all we can hope for is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We can always find convenient distraction like work, exercise, meditation or socializing to get our minds off of things. And although we may be still harboring grief, we can still actually move on to attain great material wealth or other personal achievements. But, are we just sticking band-aids on our symptoms? Are we merely finding substitutes? How many of us are truly spiritually healing ourselves from our loseses? Grief stricken individuals should always strive to distinguish between real healing and substitutes. We certainly have heard of people dying from grief! The invisible wounds are always the toughest ones to heal, aren’t they. We can be such good actors can’t we.
So which is more important–our external or internal healing? What real significance or healing do we benefit from if we are spending the rest of our lives nursing invisible wounds? But, the will to survive will always be there—no matter how faint. As human beings we are biologically hardwired to “survive”. …even if it is many times just window dressing. The bible says, “what good is a man who gains the world, but loses his soul?” So is this nearly the same for someone who has lost such a vital part of themselves? Getting lost in personal accomplishments is not a healthy indicator of real healing from loss. How many “walking dead” are out there? Sometimes we zone out and spend a lifetime of psychologically beating up on ourselves—or others. We know it’s not wholesome. But, for now, its convenient.
So, no one should question or place their expectations on others who have lost a loved one. There are no time limits on how one grieves or copes with their loss. Understand that, the physical life continues with or without us. And people will either understand you or see you as being deficient in some way. Very few will show genuine understanding, compassion or patience. Although there tends to be a sort of kinship between those who are walking down that dark path of pain and isolation.
So, absolutely, it is normal for you–if not for others–to take all the time you need to heal in your own way. It’s ok to spend sometimes an inordinate amount of time alone in quiet reflection. It’s ok to talk to lost loved ones in private. And, it’s ok to cry sometimes–still. Besides, there are hoards of people who are running around town, smiling, laughing, and dancing the night away with miles between them and true spiritual healing. So what‘s the difference? “…If there’s a smile on my face, it’s only there child to fool the public…”—Tears of a Clown
Just know that the public is on it’s own time. And we do not have to dance to their music. We certainly don’t have to embrace all of the obvious disingenuousness in the world. We do, however, have to participate within it. Even before, were not we doing that all along? We were participating in a world with families, friends and strangers who really didn’t quite know us anyway. So, we are back to where we started from— at the beginning. Remember: we still need to find ourselves. Who are we? We are not alone.