Americans tend to avoid grief. We watch hurricane disasters and fires and car crashes on television, but when it comes to listening to someone’s grief story, many of us want to be elsewhere. According to a common myth, mourners “get over it” in three weeks or so, a notion so far from reality it’s laughable.
Bereaved people like me are everywhere — at the grocery store, filling car gas tanks, walking discount store aisles, and waiting at red lights. After four of my family members died in 2007 I wanted to release the pain of grief and tell everyone about my losses. I wanted to shout, “I’m a bereaved parent!” But I didn’t.
Duluth News Tribune columnist Sam Cook describes grief in his moving article, “Amid Grief, Life Goes On.” He begins his article by saying outsiders are often unable to see mourners’ grief. While we see grief at church and memorial services, we don’t really see or understand what mourners are going through.
Mourners are among us, Cook observes, “with us and apart from us all at once.” He suspects the pain of grief lasts a long time. He is right. Suffering multiple losses six years ago resulted in deep emotional pain and I felt isolated. To cope with this pain I turned to my occupation — writer — and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.
Whether it’s an article, book, or workshop, I share my story with others. My story is recounted in hundreds articles and eight books about grief reconciliation and recovery. Still, I have more to say. I would like to hire a car, a microphone, drive through my hometown and say:
Look at me carefully, for I am a bereaved parent.
I will be a bereaved parent, daughter-in-law, sister, and mother-in-law for the rest of my life.
Multiple losses have not destroyed me; they have made me stronger.
Hard and lonely as my journey has been, I found my way through the darkness.
Helping other bereaved people makes me feel good inside.
Enjoying my life is a tribute to my deceased loved ones.
Raising my grandkids is the greatest blessing I have ever received.
In his article Cook cites some of the grief triggers that take mourners back in time, the awful phone call or knock on the door. Since I am grieving for four family members I am on constant alert for grief triggers. I also look for ways to share my story and the happy life I am living now.
But some mourners try to bypass emotional pain by keeping their sorrow to themselves, a process called “stuffing feelings.” I understand this response and succumbed to it for a short time until I realized my grief history makes me who I am today. Rather than stuffing our feelings, mourners like you and me may share our stories. We may listen to others’ grief stories as well.
As The Compassionate Friends (TCF) notes in its Workshop Presenter Information and Agreement, “Tell your own story briefly (remember that each person to whom you are speaking also has a story).” If you haven’t shared your story yet, I encourage you to do so. You will be amazed at the kindness and information and caring you receive in return.