Have you thought much about this word? Grief.
I’ll be honest, I really had never thought much of this word before. However, lately it’s been a word on my mind not to make me sad…but to make me whole.
This may sound confusing so hang in there, I will explain.
Last November I lost one of my best friends in life. This person has been a dear friend since the 8th grade. If you have ever had one of those friends where you just don’t even have to try, you just click automatically…that would be him.
For sake of privacy I will call him Thomas. Thomas was someone I always talked to at least once a month. Yes we lived in different places and were in different points in our lives, but we always kept tabs on each other. We always picked up right where we left off, and he was always such a sweet, supportive friend to me. I remember sometimes we would just look at each other and burst into laughter, because, for whatever reason, we both had the ability to lift each other up in times of trouble.
Thomas had many struggles, especially when it came to his health. He was very tough and worked very hard to maintain his health as much as possible. Thomas and I were both the cheerful type, but deep down we both shared moments of anxiety and depression. I also think we got along so well because of our ability to calm each others nerves and anxieties.
Bottom line, I have no doubt that God sent Thomas into my life and he has blessed my life for the better.
So you can imagine how awful it was to receive a call from another dear friend, telling me that Thomas had passed away. He was thirty-three years old, suffering with many health problems, and it took his life.
I was devastated by this news and frantically called my mother and my husband for comfort and peace. I had my two young children with me…I was out on a shopping trip and tried to maintain composure which seemed like the longest hour of my life.
As I grappled with the reality of the news of one of my best friends, I knew I needed to go through the 5 Stages of Grief. As a Health teacher, I used to teach these stages to my students.
1-Denial 2-Anger 3-Bargaining 4-Depression 5-Acceptance
For me personally, it was easy to experience Denial and Anger quite quickly. No one wants to admit that a loved one has passed on, and it’s easy to get angry about it. For me, I was angry at myself. I had texted my friend earlier that week, but I hadn’t called and I was so ANGRY at myself for not calling that one last time and I dwelled on that anger.
Something happened, after experiencing the first two stages, which were already painful…I decided I just needed to skip the rest and accept his death and try to move on. After all, my religious beliefs reminded me that he was in a better place. I believed he was happy and healthy in heaven, free from all his earthly pains. So with that thought in mind, I just tried to accept the situation and move on.
HOWEVER….this didn’t work so well. I was crying at random, my little toddler boy would say “I’m sorry your friend died” all the time to me because he knew that was the issue. And I really struggled.
I believe in the power of prayer and said a prayer to God wondering how to better cope with this loss …if that’s even possible. And I knew, as I was praying that my answer was that I couldn’t skip the process. I needed to Grieve.
That meant that I needed to bargain. Maybe ask Heavenly Father for more memories of Thomas so that I could still feel his presence. I found this memory in a Marco Polo I had received a month prior from Thomas. I played that Marco Polo over and over and cried and cried. Having video of my dear friend and listening to his voice helped me deal with the loss so much better.
Depression. Yes I had to go through a state of depression because my friend meant the world to me. Thomas had met my son but not my daughter and I had plans to share so many more memories with him in this life. Having those plans cut short was devastating and it hurt. I allowed myself to cry, and knew crying would help me heal because holding it in was not working.
Acceptance. It’s amazing how you truly do come to ACCEPT a loss, but only through experiencing the other stages of grief. Trying to skip from ANGER to ACCEPTANCE was not working and it was a struggle. I knew it would hurt to hit the BARGAINING and DEPRESSION stage and I didn’t want to go there…but you have to. No skipping, pain helps heal. It’s crazy, but somehow it really does work that way.
Now here’s the part that doesn’t get easier. Yes you learn to accept that your loved one is gone in this life….but there are so many triggers and reminders of that person which is bittersweet. The world keeps turning and your heart will always hurt a little bit or even a lot, because the world goes on without that person in it.
So I don’t believe TIME heals the loss, I think TIME helps you cope with loss. You will always remember little things and big things. Their birthday, their favorite holidays or desserts, funny stories, or you may even think of calling them to chat and you have to remind yourself they aren’t there.
Loss is hard. There’s no easy way out, and it brings us to some pretty low lows. And yet, we come out of it humbled, and grateful for the loved ones that have moved on.
SUPPORT is huge. Leaning on others and talking through your grief is so helpful. My close friends, my family, they were the key to helping me through this sad loss. I even asked some friends to pray for me so that I could handle processing things better. Just knowing that people cared and were supportive was huge.
There is always something to learn from losing a loved one. For me, it was hug those loved ones tight, call those people you care about, and remember that TIME and MEMORIES with loved ones are the best things in life. Those memories will help you cope when loved ones pass.
So my advice is…don’t skip the grieving. Don’t stop and fester in the ANGER stage, because you literally cannot accept the loss, until you have journeyed through the heartache of all stages of grief.
I would also add– lean on God and your loved ones, they will guide you through this tough experience.
I will leave you with a poem I wrote for my dear friend Thomas. I couldn’t sleep one night, I was in my stage of Depression and sometimes writing is my therapy: