Grief is a funny thing. The intensity lessens, but it never seems to go completely away. Professionals and books will tell you that there is a neat series of emotions that you will go through, and then everything will be alright. In my personal opinion, it is more like jagged mountains you hike through; just when you thought you reached the highest peak, there's another one to climb. You have to navigate rocks and bushes in your path and sometimes you hit a level path for a time. A level path can be quite deceiving, slowly ascending until you realize you're heading up again. I think that's the best way I can describe grief, it seems to sneak up on you when you think you're doing well, but if you honestly look back, it's been building for a time.
When you lose someone very close to you, you have to learn how to deal with the way grief works in your life. Immediately after your loved one has died, it looks quite different depending on the situation. I have been through both - the quick, unexpected death and the "knew it was coming" death. But after the immediacy has worn off, the long-term grief comes. This grief doesn't have a timeline, but lives as a part of the fabric of your life. If you learn the best ways to cope with it, it doesn't have to consume you but just becomes a part of you. You can use it for good - keeping memories of the loved one alive for yourself and future generations, lending a sympathetic ear to someone just starting the grief journey, and evaluation of your life. Here are some ways I've found helps me when grief "sneaks" up on me:
- Acknowledge. Sometimes you have to put a name to your feelings in order to move on. It only prolongs the process if you deny that you are grieving....it doesn't matter if it's been 2 years or 20 years.
- Pray. Give it to God. He knows what you're feeling and he wants to give you peace. It may not happen right away because sometimes you have to learn something about yourself in the process, but you need to pray right away and often.
- Talk to someone. Maybe it is someone who has lost a loved one and understands. Maybe it's a relative or friend you trust with your feelings. God has given us these people for this purpose.
- Use a resource. My favorite I go back to time and time again is "Motherless Daughters" by Hope Edelman. I also have "Letters from Motherless Daughters" by the same author. I find it extremely comforting to know I am not the only person dealing with these feelings.
- Give yourself a break. You may have to duck out of your routine for a day or two. If you have young children at home, reach out to your spouse, a relative, or a friend for a break.
- Do something you love. Go for a drive. Look through a scrapbook. Get together with a friend for coffee. Go for a run or walk. Be kind to yourself. It is easy to beat yourself up...."I should be over this by now!" This will only prolong the grief, which could easily lead into depression.