I have been honored over the years to have witnessed the stories of men and women who have lost their spouses, parents whose precious children are gone and children who miss their deceased siblings or parents. As their journeys unfolded and they learned to navigate the wilderness of their grief, an interesting phenomenon seemed to occur. As the heart work of grief was undertaken and the pain and loneliness were faced and responded to, the bereaved began to step forward slowly and engage in life more fully again.
That doesn’t mean they had forgotten their deceased loved one or that they were in denial. No, they have walked with grief and had learned from it. Their stories resonate within my heart.
Following my husband Trent’s death I found myself confronted by grief at every turn. The decisions I was required to make for my little family, now without the support and wisdom of my life mate, were all colored by the intense emotions of grief — disbelief, fear, confusion, insecurity … so many emotions that vied for my attention.
In those early years of my grief I struggled with daily living that had become for me a slow plodding through what seemed like a robotic existence as I attempted to create a “new normal” for my two young daughters who desperately missed their daddy. Grief was ever present and mourning soon became a way of life for us as I lost sight of our future.
But as time marched on, as it has a tendency to do, our lives did begin to change despite and perhaps even because of the pain. We worked hard at mourning our loss and remembering the good man who had helped shape this precious family into what it is today. And as we did our remembering, even sometimes against the well-meaning advice to “get over it” offered by family and friends, we began to create that “new normal” for ourselves.
Our lives began to take on a different shape that was ours alone. Our grief taught us that though Trent is no longer with us in the physical sense, our hearts still hold an open space for our memories of this man we loved so much.
Many years have come and gone since my beloved died, but I must admit that there are times when some memory or circumstance causes me to touch that place deep inside where my grief still lies. Through these experiences I have learned that grief is a life-long journey that requires my attention.
So when those times arise, I allow myself time to remember, cry, tell stories, or whatever soothes my heart. And then I move on.
Though I have full confidence in the fulfilling life I lead today, I know I will always miss Trent. But grief no longer pervades my days. The pain does soften as the grief work is done. Life does become livable again as we create that “new normal” where the memory of our loved one and the grief we feel finds its rightful place.
A wise and gentle-hearted man whose teenaged son died a few years ago in a tragic accident explained it this way, “At first my grief was in my face. I couldn’t see anything else. Then as time went on and I worked through my grief, I began to realize it is a life-long thing. This wasn’t going to go away. So I made it my friend. And it began to walk with me. Now, after four years, it’s not in my face anymore, but rather in my peripheral vision. It’s always there. I’ll always miss him, but it’s not in my face anymore and I can enjoy life again. And that’s a good thing.”
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