A common misunderstanding about grief is that it progresses in an orderly fashion with a timeline and clear stages. For those of us who have experienced the death of someone we love, we quickly learn that grief is a very messy and confusing process. There is little order to grief. It can be difficult to overcome expectations (both of others and ourselves) that we should be farther along in our grief, should have “moved on,” or be better by “now” (whenever “now” is in your journey).
In my work as a grief counselor with Unity Hospice, I have learned that grief is more of a cyclical process. Similar to the seasons of the year, grief has times of change, stagnation, and hope. These changes might occur rapidly, or they might happen at a slow, measured pace over the course of days, weeks, months, and years. Wherever you find yourself in that process, keep in mind these three things:
- There is no “right way” to grieve.
- There is no timeline you need to be on.
- If you’re finding yourself in need of support, make the courageous decision to reach out.
As we near and enter this Fall season, there are many parallels in the grieving process. Just like leaves in Fall, our grief changes with time. While these changes aren’t always readily apparent, it can be helpful to look back on the time since the death of your loved one and reflect on how you have changed. Where is there room for growth in your healing? What growth and healing have you found already? The leaves do not immediately turn into their beautiful golds, oranges, and reds overnight. They change slowly over time.
As the temperature continues to drop, leaves eventually fall from their branches. As we continue to mourn, there may be things to be left by the wayside for a time. Sometimes pictures of the person who died might need to be taken down because the constant reminder is too painful (yes, this is okay!). This does not have to be permanent. Leaves return in Spring, and as you heal and find hope, those reminders might not bring the pain they once did. Relationships may also need to be laid by the wayside for a time. I have heard in my work with those grieving and mourning that they are often surprised at who shows up to support them. They are equally surprised by those who they anticipated would offer support and did not show up. Perhaps it is time to sort through physical belongings of the person who died and part with some items; however, remember grief has no timeline and you can take as much time as you need in this process.
Just like leaves in Fall, our grief changes with time.
Eventually the air becomes cooler. This is when trees begin the process of concentrating sugar in their sap to prevent themselves from freezing and becoming damaged during the cold winter months. How can you sweeten your life to prevent the cold winter months from overwhelming you? Is there room in your schedule to spend more time with the people you love? Are there books you’ve put off reading for enjoyment as the sunshine and warmth of the summer drew you outside? Perhaps you can consider trying a new hobby that keeps you fresh through the coming winter months. Healing in grief and coping with the difficult times takes effort (not just time), just as it takes effort for the trees to fortify themselves in the changing seasons.
While it is completely natural for worry and fear to rise in our hearts and minds as we look to the future, it is also important to balance that worry and fear with a reminder of hope. Nothing remains the same for long, and our lives are constantly shifting and changing. When we are in pain and struggling to find hope, it can be helpful to remind ourselves that all things change. This might mean that our pain increases for a time, but it will not remain that way forever. The cold will come and it will go. The trees will eventually embrace the warmth of the sun and new leaves will grow. In the same away, we can embrace more peace and ease as we continue to work towards healing and growth in our own lives.
Contact Unity Hospice at 800-990-9249 to speak with a grief counselor or visit our website here to learn more about how we can support you. Thanks to generous community donations, Unity’s grief counseling services are offered to the public at no charge.
This blog post was shared by Anthony Klingert, Grief Counselor at Unity Hospice.
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