By Allison Daily —
Does grief end?
It’s a question that varies for each person and depends in part on the person’s relationship to the one who has died. The death of a child is different than that of a parent or grandparent. The death of a spouse is different from that of a sibling or best friend. Men handle grief differently than women do.
I lost my brother Rod to suicide. I got the call, heard the gory details, and had to get my parents home and then tell them, “Rod has killed himself.” It’s been nineteen years since that day. I will tell you that I have never stopped loving him and wishing he were here to know my husband and children, to share in my life. But, has grief ended?
Certainly, the worst of the pain is gone. What’s left is the love. Each year, the grief loosened its hold on me. The first year was the hardest. Each day, I questioned, “Could I have done something to help him?” Nights haunted me with either insomnia or nightmares of “the phone call.”
After the one-year anniversary, I felt a shift in my sadness. The “firsts” were over (birthday, holidays). The next year, things changed a little more; there was still sadness but less intensity. I found I was moving on and was not as focused on the emptiness and was not worrying about my parents as much.
I can’t tell you any definite event that happened that showed me I was turning a corner. It was a day-by-day, simple desire to come out of the grief and honor Rod with joy (not depression) that helped. By the fourth anniversary of Rod’s death, I began to feel I was out of the darkness.
Each year, I found new ways in my heart to remember him. One time, I planted a tree in his honor; one October, I bought flowers each week in memory of his birthday. I simply tried to turn the sadness around. This couldn’t have happened in the first few years, and it couldn’t have happened unless I had gone through a lot of therapy.
I began to see a counselor almost immediately after the suicide. I was still in shock and I was stuffing all of the emotions. My grief began to surface as anger and rage. The counselor provided a safe place where I could vent the anger, feel the sadness and let every emotion surface. The key for me was a SAFE place. I didn’t have that with friends mostly because of something lacking in myself. I was in my early twenties and not emotionally mature. Many people also expected me to be done with the grieving, a common mistake from people who’ve never had a major loss.
I think the safety and unconditional love and acceptance from someone is extremely helpful to the healing. If you have someone who will let you vent and not judge your emotions or the time frame of your grief, that is a beautiful gift. If you don’t have that in a spouse or friend, and even if you do, the help of a therapist or counselor or support group is really helpful. Being able to talk and “tell your story” over and over can be a huge part of healing. It’s part of acceptance and releasing.
Each day is different. Grief can even creep back and ask you to revisit some unresolved pain. I went through a time of intense crying six years after Rod had died. The difference was that I would have a day of strong emotions, but the next day I would feel a real release. There was almost a beauty in the grieving. It was a time where I really felt him around me and felt him asking me to let go and be really free and happy. Once I let go, let myself feel it all, I found that an authentic happiness could enter.
Allowing myself a real time of darkness in the first years was important. Trying to be perfect or trying to be in control often get in the way of the grief process. Next, a safe place to sink into and feel all emotions is a gift. When time passes and the light begins to enter, find ways to honor and remember the one you love. Don’t rush anything. Grief has no rules. Give yourself grace and acceptance for whatever your journey looks like.
For me, grief did end. I feel bad saying that…like I am betraying Rod. When I look at pictures of him around my house and tell my boys about him, I just feel peaceful. I remember all the wonderful things about him that blessed my life. I have come to a place where, while I very much miss him, I trust that he wants me to love him and honor him with that love.Tags: grief, hope