In the South, we have some strange expressions: “Heaven’s to Betsy,” “Kiss my grits,” “You best get glad in the same britches you got mad in,” and “Good grief.” These phrases appear to have little or no truth or sense to them except the last one.
In our culture today, grief is viewed as a task to completed. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 60% of workers receive paid funeral leave, but typically it is only 3-5 days depending on the relationship of the worker to the deceased. Facebook CEO recently revised its Bereavement Policy after the CEO experienced the loss of her husband to include up to 20 days of bereavement. Again, these policies convey the idea that in 3-20 days, you will be a functioning member of the team.
Then, in the relationship world, the bereaved may feel as though he/she needs to “Suck it up buttercup” to maintain vital relationships. The bereaved may hear phrases such as “Don’t you think it’s time to move on?,” “Pull yourself together so you can be there for your kids,” “They wouldn’t want you to be sad,” and “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Although a time limit is not set, these phrases suggest that grief is not good or acceptable, and one should move on for the sake of the those around them.
But for the bereaved, grief is a big ball of twine, and no one knows, including the bereaved what emotion will come next. Will it be despair, anger, laughter? If you are enduring grief, you may feel like you are out of control with emotion. Remember, this is your journey though. Each person’s grief is unique. No one can take your grief from you, nor can you hand it over for someone else to carry. No one gets to tell you when it’s time to be happy or sad. This is YOUR grief. This is your journey to find hope and healing, and there is no timetable for it.
You may be wondering, “What makes her an expert?” Experience. I’ve lived this several times over, but the most prevalent losses where my mom and dad. I was nine when my father died of cancer. I often tell people I lost my dad and mom in a day. I lost my dad physically, but I lost my mom emotionally. I truly believe she never got over the loss of my dad. And, then when I was twenty-four, I lost my mother to cancer. It was definitely two different experiences. At nine, I heard continually, “At least he’s not in pain anymore.” And the attitude of the family was “If we don’t talk about it, it didn’t happen.” I also endured at nine “She’s too young to know what is going on.” I even heard a family member express, “She cried fake tears at her dad’s funeral.” With my mother’s death, because I was raised in an environment where grief was not good or accepted and should not be expressed, I donned the belief “Heaven gained another angel, and she’s happy to be reunited to be with my dad.” And I went about my seemingly happy life until I was thirty-six and my whole world caved in on me due to severe depression. And you know what it had to do with? Yep, I never grieved. So, at thirty-six, I finally got to be the nine-year-old little girl who just wanted her daddy back and got to be the twenty-four-year old who never got to say goodbye to her mom.
“When you enter into grief, you’ve entered into the valley of shadows. There is nothing heroic or noble about grief. It’s painful. It’s work. It’s a lingering process. But it is necessary for all kinds of losses…Grief is not an enemy; it is a friend. It is the natural process of walking through hurt and growing because of the walk. Let it happen.” -Norman Wright
None of us want experience the “valley of shadows.” None of us are born thinking, “I can’t wait to go through grief.” But because we live in a fallen world, we will experience it. To run from it, delay it, compartmentalize it, only prolongs the pain. But when we recognize that grief is “a friend,” is good because it is actually part of the healing process, and we endure the natural process of it, we allow ourselves the opportunity to find hope again.
While there is not enough room in this writing to explore every aspect of grief, there are listed several resources that you can review to help you on your journey of grief. If you find this burden too heavy to bear, know that we here at Clint Davis Counseling are willing to walk beside you on your journey.
M.S. PLPC, Play Therapy Trainee
Certification in trauma for children and adolescents
- It’s Okay to Cry
- Experiencing Grief
- Recovering from the Losses of Life
- Missing the Child You Love
- Elizabeth Davita-Reaburn
- The Empty Room: Understanding Sibling Loss
- Patrice Karst
- The Invisible String (for children)
- Joanna Rowland
- The Memory Box (for children)
- S. Lewis
- A Grief Observed
- The Problem with Pain