- *We come together as people drawn to life, yet acquainted with death.
- We come full of our memories—those memories that seem hard for us to bear and those that lift us up and give us the courage to go on.
- We come together today knowing that we are not alone—that others struggle as we struggle, that others love as we have loved and as we love still, hour by hour, day by day.
- May we find our full share of love and hope in this hour of togetherness before us.
Welcome back to those who started with Lesson 1. For those of you who may be new to this course, thank you for joining us! I encourage new students to begin with the first lesson. As time goes on, it may be easier if you have done so.
I have updated the Library with book suggestions from the last class. If you have other suggestions, please share and I will include them as well. I will be adding links of interest over time as well.
Do not hesitate to contact me if you need something or have a question. Remember, all comments are monitored by me before they are posted.
I so enjoy having each of you in class. Let’s get on with today’s lesson. Peggy
So, I ask you, what is this thing called grief? I am sure that we each have a different definition of the word. Grief is usually a word we use to connote sadness; sometimes, it is used comically:
Here is a definition that I use in my trainings:
“Grief is our personal response to loss. It can influence us on many levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually. No two people will react in the same manner to a shared loss experience”.
Here are others (taken from Answers.com):
- Deep mental anguish, as that arising from bereavement.
- A source of deep mental anguish.
- Annoyance or frustration: Trying to follow their directions was nothing but grief.
- Trouble or difficulty: the griefs of trying to meet a deadline.
And finally, here are some words used to describe grief (Collins Essential Thesaurus 2nd Edition):
- unhappiness, dolefulness, affliction, persisting sadness, melancholy, misery, intense unhappiness, forlornness, loneliness, desolation, forsaken, abandonment, tearfulness, weepiness, loss, bereavement, regret, sorrow
© Peggy Sweeney and Coursework in Grief: A Lesson in Healing, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author of the article with appropriate and specific direction to the original content on the Coursework in Grief: A Lesson in Healing website courseworkingrief.com.
Take My Hand, I Will Walk with You
by Peggy Sweeney
The Sweeney Alliance
No one should walk the road of grief alone. Yet every day, adults and children must cope with the pain of grief by themselves. Alone. Grief can be a very frightening and overwhelming experience filled with an array of emotions and feelings. This article will explore our reactions to grief as well as offer advice for coping with day-to-day struggles.
Grief affects us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Grief is similar to a roller coaster ride in the dark. We never know from one moment to the next which reaction or combination of reactions will overpower us. Below are some of the numerous grief reactions you may experience:
- Physical reactions – sighing, shortness of breath, a change in eating habits, weight loss or gain, headaches, loss of energy, apathy, illness, gastrointestinal problems, sleeplessness, crying or uncontrollable sobbing, gut-wrenching pain.
- Mental or spiritual reactions – selfishness or egocentric focus, distracted thought patterns, short attention span, auditory/visual hallucinations (we think we hear or see the person who has died), regressed actions (may become childlike or more dependent on others), suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in socializing, over-protection of our children (especially when a child has died), a loss of faith, question our religious beliefs, some people ask, Where is God in all of this? or What have I done wrong that God punished me like this? or “God does not love me!
- Emotional – depression, fear, resentment, powerlessness, emotional numbness, withdrawal, blaming, frustration, anger, guilt.
Each person will react to grief and loss differently. Your individual reactions are defined by previous experiences as well as your coping skills. You may feel, at times, as if you are functioning on automatic pilot or are in a daze. Your senses may seem numb. You may cry uncontrollably, be short-tempered, or be unable to cope with simple tasks. There may be occasions when you feel as if your insides have been ripped out. The pain you feel physically and emotionally seems never-ending. You believe you will never be happy again. Your grief may shake the foundation of your religious beliefs. You find yourself playing the “what if?” game and endlessly searching for answers to “why?”
Guilt and anger play a major role in grieving. They are normal, healthy reactions. You may feel guilty for unkind actions or words spoken in haste towards the person who has died. You may regret the opportunities you’ve missed to spend quality time with them before their death. You may be angry due to the circumstances surrounding their death (suicide, homicide). You may find that you are angry with them for dying and leaving you alone. Discontent within a family during or following the funeral may cause undue emotional stress. Nonetheless, guilt and anger can be the driving force that motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and live another day. It is not wrong to feel guilt or anger; however, you do not use them as an excuse to inflict pain on yourself or others.
Grieve in your own way and in your own time. I recommend keeping a journal or diary. Write down your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis. This will help you realize that you are progressing through your grief. Compose letters to your loved one or list simple accomplishments you’ve mastered; such as, doing chores around the house, participating in social activities with friends, or just enjoying the glories of nature. We become so burdened with grief that we forget to celebrate the simple things in life. Laughter is good for healing grief as well. I do not expect you to laugh and reinvest in life and living quickly. This will take time; whatever time you need. Your grief journey may take many months or even years. You will never be the person you were before your grief journey began. I promise you, though, that if you are willing to do what it will take to heal your grief, the pain will subside. You will be able to smile and be happy again. Grief has the power to help you become a more sensitive, loving, and caring person.
Read articles and books on grief. A bereavement support group or speaking with a minister, priest, or rabbi can also be of help. Avoid excessive alcohol or addictive drugs. They may temporarily dull your pain, but they will do nothing to heal your grief. Exercise and eat healthy. If you are having trouble sleeping, drink a glass of warm milk or listen to soothing music.
If you have a special friend who is willing to walk with you through your grief journey hold their hand tightly. They will guide you around the obstacles in your path. They will surround you with love and lift you up when your days are long and lonely. This special friend can reaffirm your simple achievements and acknowledge that you are making progress in healing.
The road to healing grief is filled with many hurdles and detours. Family and friends may find life just as challenging and painful as you. Keep in mind that no two people will deal with feelings and emotions in the same manner. Do not be surprised to find that some of your acquaintances may tire of your seemingly long journey. People expect you to be over it (grief) in a short period of time. Do not plan to have your grief healed by a certain date (i, six months, the anniversary of the death). Take whatever time you need. It is important for you to acknowledge all your feelings. Do not feel ashamed or weak as the result of your emotions or expressions of grief. Seek out someone who will walk with you and guide you through your journey. Take hold of their strong hand and lean on them. Let them help you survive your grief.
Copyright Peggy Sweeney. All rights reserved.
Ideas for Helping You Cope with Grief
~ Over the years, I have often thought about my loved ones who have died. Wonderful memories have I. But I have noticed lately that I wish I had delved further into their past when they were alive to learn more about them. Or, I wish I had gotten my great-aunt to write down her recipe for the brown mustard gravy she served on Fridays in Lent when she made fried fish. Or, I wish I had talked with my dad about his time aboard the USS Texas during WWII. So many I wish I had but didn’t do kind of things. I wish I had sat with my mom and audio- or video-taped her sharing stories of her past. I could go on, but I am sure you know what I am talking about.
My suggestion… DON’T WAIT, DO IT NOW! We can start today gathering memories for the future. Or creating keepsakes for those we will leave behind when we die. Oh, and don’t forget to take note of those favorite recipes they have committed to memory. Write them down!
OK, so we can’t go back in time and create memories with our loved ones. But we can RE-create those happy times on paper or making a scrapbook, or recording stories orally with other family members. Perhaps at a family reunion or a vacation trip. As long as we have our memories, our loved ones will always be a part of us. No one can take these memories away.
~ Here is another neat idea I found on Pinterest! The caption reads:
“Throughout the year, write down memories that make you smile. On New Year’s Eve, open it up. fun. :)” Why couldn’t you do this for key events that happen during the year, write them in your journal or start blogging.
Taken from the blog, Inchmark
Consider Reading from Our Archives:
Why Support Groups Work
by Debbie Threadgill
Coping with Grief and Stress Through Prayer and Meditation
by Shirley Higdon and Carol Stead
No Homework, Homework ~ Time to Write in Your Journal
+ what is your definition of grief and what words do you use to describe it?
Let’s Talk About It
One of your classmates asked this question: What do you say to people who say insensitive or hurtful things to you about the death of your loved one? Such as:
“you can have another child”
“everything happens for a reason”
“you’re young, I’m sure you’ll find another husband/wife”
“they are in a better place”
“they lived a long life”
How do YOU answer these types of questions? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
- *We remember mothers and fathers, grandparents and great-grandparents, and all our ancestors through the ages. We remember also those who were as mother or father to us, loving us by choice rather than by chance.
- We remember sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, relatives near and distant throughout time.
- We remember children who have gone before us, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
- We remember both those who lived within the womb and those who danced upon the earth.
- We remember wives and husbands, dearest lovers and closest friends, those who opened us to ourselves and to life even as we opened ourselves to them and now to eternity.
- We remember friends and associates, those who neighbored us and lifted us and expanded our horizons.
- We remember also that the time will come when we ourselves will pass through the barrier separating one form of life from another. We know that as we remember today, we will be remembered tomorrow.
*excerpts from the book, Helping the Bereaved Celebrate the Holidays by Dr. James E. Miller
Want to join our class? Sign up to be notified when a new lesson is published.