The great author Maya Angelou wrote~
When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors.
I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else.
I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return.
Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake.
I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting? ‘with ‘ it is here in my heart and mind and memories.’
Her experience is likely similar to that of many of us. Losing a loved one can elicit an array of emotions including sadness and anger. These emotions can be powerful, overwhelming, complicated, and confusing. Not only that, but the process of grieving is not linear. We might think we have a handle on our emotions and are well on our way to healing when something happens to knock us flat. All of these experiences are “normal.”
There is no wrong way to grieve, because each of us experiences it differently. There are, however, counterproductive ways to grieve. If we project our anger over our loss and take it out on someone else in our life that can end up hurting both them and us. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to hurt those we love because of our anger.
It also can hurt us if we don’t process our grief at all. According to an article in Psychology Today, “Buried grief can bubble to the surface in troublesome ways later on in a person’s life.” A person may think they can just stuff down the difficult feelings and ignore them, but it festers just like an untreated wound. This can ultimately make the emotions even more difficult to deal with.
So what do we do? It can be helpful to find safe spaces and safe ways to cope with and process all the feelings created by the death of a loved one. It is also important to surround yourself with people who will understand and support you. If there are people in your life who aren’t supportive, or tell you just to “Get over it,” it may be a good idea to limit contact with them for a while.
Self-care is the most important thing to help you heal. That includes being kind to yourself and remembering that it is okay to be happy. It doesn’t mean you loved them any less. You aren’t betraying their memory by moving forward with life.
Taking a break from grief and working through the grief both play important roles in the process. It might be helpful to find a counselor or minister to talk to. Some people find meaning in humanitarian efforts and helping others. Some even work out their frustrations through exercise. Prayer or meditation can be powerful tools for finding inner peace and strength. A walk alone in nature can be physically and spiritually invigorating.
It is important to have blocks of time where the feelings can flow freely, and without concern about who may be watching. Be intentional about giving yourself the opportunities to let go if necessary.
Taking time to remember is also comforting. Hold a special ritual, look at pictures, share stories with others.
Each person’s journey of grief is unique. Our feelings may be different, but we each need to allow ourselves to express and honor whatever emotions we experience. It is not always easy, but it also honors the love that we shared with someone special.
~Jennifer Roberts Bittner
Funeral Celebrant/ Life Tribute Specialist
Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
N. Chesterfield, VA 23234
Serving the Richmond area since 1870