March 15, 2018 Blog
“Don’t Waste Your Pain”
One of the indicators of managing our grief is reaching through our pain to help other people. We don’t have to move beyond our grief to do that. We just need to be headed in the right direction. Consider this: many of the heartaches, pains and difficulties we go through are there for the benefit of other people. Truth is, we will go through those challenges for a purpose greater than ourselves; to help other people navigate the very things that we’ve been going through and comfort others in the way we have been comforted. This is proof of recovery and healing. We know we’re becoming emotionally, physically, spiritually healthy when we start focusing on other people.
I have discovered three facts about pain and grief:
Our greatest help to others will not come through our strengths, but through sharing our weaknesses. The amazing thing is that when we can begin to focus on helping others, we can experience additional healing in our own lives. This isn’t to say that we should deny our own grief, But, the best healers are “Wounded Healers”. One of the sentiments I often hear from those who have lost a spouse is that they feel they have nothing for which to live. This is a normal immediate grief response when losing a soul mate of thirty, forty or fifty years. That is why a support group is so very helpful. The mistake those on the outside make is to assume that older grieving spouses simply need to sign up for Geezermatch.com! I facilitated a widow support group one evening and a woman shared with the group that she was asked by a family member if she had started dating yet. She shook her head in disgust, “I’m seventy-four years old…dating? Seriously?” She shared with the group was that she was looking for purpose – not a partner. There are those who are seeking companionship, but theirs is a different type of grief. They usually have been able to maintain or recapture a sense of purpose and direction.
I would like to share some things you can do to positively impact people’s lives:
SHARE YOUR FEELINGS
Think of the times you are asked, “How’re you doing?” You respond quickly, “I’m OK.” No, you are not! You’re still in the grip of grief. This doesn’t mean that you should launch into a one-hour monologue, but gentle openness can help increase their awareness and allow them to feel they can be open with their grief be as well. Don’t be surprised when someone who is grieving approaches you for help. It usually begins with the question, “Can you tell me how you handled (loved one’s) death?” We all need someone who will validate us; who will listen without attempting to fix us. One of the greatest gifts you can give to someone grieving is the gift of your heart for their pain and grief.
SHARE YOUR TAKE-AWAYS
What have you learned from your grief and pain? Are there things you would do differently as you’ve walked through the stages of grief? The unique aspect of our grief is the empathy effect it has on us. Grieving people more readily recognize grieving people. It is not uncommon for someone who has been working through their grief to have increased sensitivity to the misstep others are taking as they struggle with loss.
It is often said that it’s wise to learn from experience, but it is wiser to learn from the experiences of others. You have already navigated some things other people are going through. They can benefit greatly from your insight. You might discover that you should lead a support group. It’s not as daunting as you might think.
SHARE YOUR HOPE
Everybody needs hope to cope. Grief can just kick the hope out of you. As you emerge from that dark and painful tunnel, hope arises. And that means that you are winning the war. There will still be battles to fight, but hope is your best weapon. Just remember that there are countless people around you who are so hungry for hope. You may well be the only brochure they read, because, unlike words on glossy tri-fold paper, you are flesh and bone with eyes that look into the eyes of hopeless others; with arms that hold the weak and tears that look just like their tears. They know that the best place to get genuine, solid hope is from someone who’s been where they are now.
Here’s the reality about grief; it doesn’t go away. I still randomly grieve over friends and family who have died. Hearing a song, seeing a photograph; even stumbling upon their contact information on my phone can momentarily produce a quick memory trip with a little added melancholy. The reason why grief stays with us is because of our love for the one to whom we’ve said, “Good bye.”, and because we are reminded of our own mortality. I even grieve at times over consequential mistakes I have made. We often refer to it as deep regret. But I have discovered that we are created with the capacity to overcome. I have also come to realize that my grief can be used for a purpose greater than me. I can live a fulfilling life as a “wounded healer” if I don’t waste my pain.
Director, Community Care/Aftercare
6500 Iron Bridge Rd.
Chesterfield, VA 23234