No one seems to want to talk about death and dying or about grief and grieving, I don’t understand this. It’s no big secret. We’re all going to die one day. We’re all going to grieve a few losses in our lives. Due to the secrecy surrounding death and the fear this seems to bring, plus our avoidance of feeling our emotions, especially intense ones, most people aren’t equipped to process the maelstrom of emotions we feel after the loss of a loved one.
No More Secrets
Secrecy and fear has lead to a lot of misinformation and unrealistic expectations around loss and grief. The biggest myth is the ‘Give it time, dear. Time heals all wounds.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that. And I used to believe it. So when I still felt a deep sadness years, and even decades about the death of my mum, I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought I should have been over it. I didn’t know, I had to process my feelings. I’d buried my feelings of grief alive, and they kept rising up to haunt me. I didn’t even know I was harbouring feelings of grief, let alone understand that I had to process them, which to me just means, I had to first accept and allow them and then actually feel them fully. I hid those feelings for fifty years!
Bring up the subject of death at a gathering and you find yourself alone, or there’s an awkward silence before someone changes the subject. I’ve been accused of being morbid when I mentioned I was planning on writing your own eulogy. We, as a society are just uncomfortable talking about death. Perhaps, this stems from many of us not being comfortable talking about feelings in general, especially our deepest raw feelings.
As a child, we’re told to not cry when we hurt ourselves or when we feel sad.This invalidated our feelings. ‘It’s OK. Don’t cry.” we were told. Sometimes, it’s not okay and we do need to cry.
When talking about experiences of loss, I’ve noticed some people will start to share their story but only to a point. They’re fine talking about it superficially but don’t want you to delve deeper, it’s still too raw. They haven’t processed their pain fully.
There’s others who will talk to you and reveal their anger or resentment by declaring how bad something or someone is. Generally this involves some system like the medical or legal system, government or roads, depending on whoever or whatever they hold responsible for the death of a loved one. Their pain is still raw and they’re focussed on how their loved one died. They can’t process their grief unless they can release blame.
There’s people who wonder what the fuss is all about. “Why are you still going on about this, they died ___ (fill in the number) years ago. You should be over it by now.” They may not be so bold as to say the actual words yet you can hear their thoughts. These are the beautiful souls who haven’t yet experienced a loss so deep that their heart is cracked wide open.
Let’s talk about how we feel
If you’re a child when you lose a parent, you don’t have the life experience or emotional capacity to comprehend the impact the loss will have on you in three, five or twenty years’ time. The loss will impact you for the rest of your life. Your heart was cracked open.
We need to allow our feelings of grief to be heard as we progress through life. Our understanding of death changes as we mature. With more life experiences, we become aware of the opportunities we also lost.
As a five year old, we could never understand what it would be like to not have our father walk us down the aisle, or to not have our mother with us when we graduate or when we have our first baby. We need to grieve for all of these losses when we become aware of them. When they arise. They’re losses we couldn’t imagine as a child.
Because no one talked about grief, there was a lot I had to learn for myself.
- No one told me grief needed to be processed – to be accepted and allowed, welcomed, fully felt without judgement, denial or disapproval.
- No one told me you can hold onto grief for years – that time alone doesn’t heal.
- No one told me a two year who lost her father still needed to grieve, even though she had no conscious memories of him.
- No one told me grief was more than feeling sad for a set time period – days, weeks or months – then getting on with things as if it didn’t happen
- No one told me or modelled to me that it is healthy to talk about those who died, and to talk about our feelings.
- No one told me grieving involved more than feeling sad and crying.
- No one told me I’d be filled with an emptiness inside that lasts forever.
As a child, I didn’t know about grief and grieving. I was never encouraged to talk about how I was feeling. There was no one to help me understand my emotions. As the years passed, I thought I should have been over my sadness. I didn’t know I still had to grieve. Why? Because no one wanted to talk about it.
My experiences of loss and grief serve as good examples of what not to do for a child who has lost a parent. And this is the reason why I want to share what I’ve learned. What I wasn’t told. How I eventually figured it out for myself. It took me fifty years to grieve for the father I didn’t remember. And over forty years to grieve for the mother I idolised, a mother I thought was perfect, as many nine year olds do.
I don’t want others to suffer the torment of thinking there’s something wrong with them because their heart still aches decades after the loss of a loved one. I don’t want others’ unrecognised or unresolved grief to dull their sparkle and hold them back from living their life to the fullest.
I want to talk about it.
I invite you to join me on this journey. I welcome you with an open heart. If you want to talk about grief and grieving, about death and dying, and feelings and emotions, if you want to talk about anything life-related that others don’t want to talk about, I invite you to join me in my Facebook group, Angel Medicine and talk about it. PS This is a closed group, so only other members in the group can see the discussion and posts can’t be shared. It’s a safe place to share and to connect. I’d love you to join us.
From my heart to yours