It’s been just over a week since my aunt died. Her two children traveled to Florida to be with her but now they have left to return to their lives. My uncle is left behind.
One of the most difficult and challenging parts of the grieving process is when the initial shock wears off, others resume their lives (as they should) and the person who endured the worst loss, the death of their spouse, has to face it alone. Even those of us with the best support systems in the world, the most thoughtful friends, still have to climb into bed and stare at the empty pillow. Reality sets in and there is the realization that life has changed.
Grief is exacerbated by our unmet expectations. We grieve not only the loss of the person but the loss of our future trips together, the experience of enjoying our children and grandchildren together, and the vision we had of growing old together.
As a priest, I always try to reach out to individuals two to three weeks after a death. I want to make sure the person understands that even though people have gone back to living their lives and it may seem that there isn’t any more acknowledgment of the tremendous loss they have sustained, I am still praying for them to have the strength and courage to meet the days ahead. Sometimes an encouraging call or text can help someone through a bad day.
Grief takes the time it takes and often I have heard people grumble that so and so needs to move on, they need to get over it, do something and not wallow in their sadness. This is dangerous. It is healthy to allow ourselves to feel the sadness and talk about our loss. We can’t push people to feel differently. We can help them express what they are feeling and not judge.
Finding a therapist or a grief group is invaluable. Instead of feeling totally lost and alone, we can be with people who are navigating the same waters and know what course to take. Some burdens are too great to shoulder alone.
You can be sure I will be reaching out to my uncle on a regular basis, just to let him know that I have not forgotten and that I love him.