There’s something about the leaves falling from the trees in Autumn, and the skies darkening earlier that grieving people understand.
When the sun shines or the sky is blue, it can be a comfort to feel warmth on your skin and feel alive even when painful events have taken over. It’s more difficult when everything else is dark around you and can seem as if the world carries on regardless, especially when Christmas – a time normally associated with celebration – is just around the corner.
I’ve worked with the bereaved for a long time, and you may think it strange my work focuses on helping you “sparkle”. How can you “sparkle” when someone dies? It may even feel as if your sparkle dies with the person you loved. I reassure my clients that you don’t lose your sparkle, it just hides for a while. As I explain in my book Answers in the Dark, we don’t “get over” grief; if anything we go under it. But you will resurface.
The outside world struggles with grief. When someone dies, your neighbours, colleagues and sometimes even friends will duck for cover mainly because they don’t know what to say. I’ve actually known people cross the street to avoid a grieving person. The reality of death itself also acts as an unwelcome reminder that we are human and we will share the same fate. Death is inevitable which means that grieving comes to all of us. But when people are unhelpful in our grief, know that it’s not you – it’s them.
Loss is not always a physical death but experienced as redundancy, relationship breakdowns, illness, injury and much more. We grieve in different ways. Some of what I’ve written below may apply to all, some not. Take what you need and leave the rest.
1) Talk about it.
I often hear people say when someone dies you should “get over it” and even avoid talking about it, especially after a period of time. Talking about it is one of the most effective ways of finding your way through grief, even if you simply identify with someone else helpful actions you can take to safeguard your well-being during this crisis, especially if sleep has become an issue. Here is a list of links that may be useful.
Another myth around grief is that it’s not natural to keep a person “alive” through memories and time spent. In their book “Continuing Bonds” Klass, Silverman and Nickman state that rather than cut ties with the person who has died, healthy resolution of grief can include maintaining “a presence and connection with the deceased”. They acknowledge that the bereavement process isn’t so much about “letting go” of their loved one but renegotiating the meaning of their loss. Finding new ways to reconnect with someone who has died can be a healthy and positive experience, whilst acknowledging their passing. Have a think about creating a memory box or dedicating time each year to honour those you’ve loved and lost.
3) Look after yourself.
Feeling low is a natural part of the grieving process as is, in some cases, associated relief. If a person has been unwell for some time you may feel guilty for feeling “glad” they have died if only to ease their suffering. Be compassionate towards yourself and spend time taking care of your needs as well as others who are grieving alongside you. If you feel “stuck” or uncomfortable with the way you are grieving you may find it helpful to share your experience through a peer support group, or ask your doctor for counselling available. In the meantime, develop a toolkit for coping which facilitates eating and sleeping well until your sparkle returns.
information provided on this page is open to individual interpretation and may not be suitable for everyone. It is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare team. Please speak to your doctor before deciding upon any form of action which may affect your health or if you have any concerns about your health and wellbeing.
© Delphi Ellis all rights reserved, updated 2021.