by Harriet Hodgson
When there are big jobs to be done — power washing the deck, tilling a garden, painting a house — Americans rent big equipment. The job gets done quickly and the equipment is returned. Recovering from the deaths of four loved ones was a big job and I wished I could rent a mourner, someone to feel pain for me while I pulled myself together.
Two loved ones, my daughter and father-in-law, died the same weekend. The losses stunned me. Six weeks later my brother died and I really wished I could rent a mourner. Then, just as I was starting to emerge from the grief haze, my former son-in-law died. My bright life turned dark.
Renting a mourner may sound silly, but if you are grieving you understand my feelings. You wish the pain of grief would go away. You wish you didn’t have to do your grief work. You wish you were done with grief. Wishful thinking, however, is not a healthy way to cope. In fact, avoiding emotional pain can be harmful.
The University of Wisconsin in Madison explains the pain of grief in a Website article, “Good Grief: Healing from the Pain of Loss.” Many people misunderstand grief, the article points out, and try to deny their pain. “But feeling the pain helps the person to cope with the loss and return to normal ways of living.”
Mourning is a complicated process, according to the article, and it cannot be rushed.
Beverly Chantalle McManus describes grief’s pain ad grief work in an Open to Hope Foundation article, “When Does the Pain of Grief Ease?” Her article was written in response to a widow’s question. Instead of trying to avoid pain, McManus thinks we should lean into it, even wallow in it, to give a “broken heart its due respect. The only reason we hurt so much, she continues, is because we love so much.
Peter Griffiths writes about grief’s pain in a “Daily Herald” column, “Grief Pain Seems Unbearable.” He says the greatest pain in life is grief. “The intensity of this experience can’t be adequately expressed in words,” writes Griffiths. People should not discount the pain of grief, nor should the compare one person’s grief to another’s. According to Griffiths, it is important for mourners to cry, yell, wail or scream.
I have twin grandchildren and their parents were killed in separate car crashes. Their father’s death made them orphans. The county court appointed my husband and me as their guardians and concervators. Grieving while raising teenagers is the biggest challenge of my life. Though I cried buckets, I did not have the luxury of yelling, wailing, or screaming. I didn’t have the time, either.
So I rented mourner and it was me. You may do the same. For we are the only ones who can truly mourn our loved ones. Thankfully, the pain of grief lessens with each passing day. We talk about our loved ones without sobbing. Memories are comforting and we start to laugh again. I can laugh, and you will too, about the idea of renting a mourner.
Harriet Hodgson has been an independent journalist for 30 years. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of Health Care Journalists, and the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Her 24th book, “Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief,” written with Lois Krahn, MD, is available from Amazon.
Centering Corporation in Omaha, Nebraska has published her 26th book, “Writing to Recover: The Journey from Loss and Grief to a New Life.” The company has also published a companion resource, the “Writing to Recover Journal,” which contains 100 writing prompts. Please visit Harriet’s Website and learn more about this busy author and grandmother.