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Hope and Healing Widow and Widowers Support Group 

January, 2021 Meeting

We are not our grief, we are grieving:

Three quotes to begin with:

Life is like wearing a pair of shoes that are too tight and death is like taking them off. (Ram Das)

Life is like a river and grief is like a flood. (AAF)

Grief is like waves breaking on a beach, overwhelming during a storm and changing to broader, lower swells that wash up less often and more gently on the shore when the storm is over. (AAF)

Definition(s) of Grief and Mourning:  What are we actually talking about here?

Grief: is a deep sorrow, especially when caused by someones death. It is a feeling within yourself in response to someone dying. 

I think the important thing to remember here is that grief is a feeling or actually a large group of very intense feelings that come over you and kind of take you over. it is often totally visceral and emotional and not rational or thoughtful at all.

Mourning: is the expression of deep sorrow caused by someones death . An external expression of your inner feelings (of grief) when someone dies. 

Mourning is about your expression of how your grief makes you feel and there are many traditional mourning customs like wearing sack cloth and ashes and keening, rocking back and forth and crying, and many other things that your grieving makes your body do to try to relieve the very intense emotions and pain you are experiencing. As with grief, they are your expressions and reflect who you are and how you loved. 

Negative grief and mourning behaviors:  

There can also be grief or mourning behaviors or the results of anger or frustration within our grief and mourning that are loud or violent or hurtful to ourselves or others, or intrusive on others that we should be aware of and seek help for when our grief or mourning becomes too intense to navigate by ourselves.

 If your mourning or grieving starts to move you in those directions, it is important for you to find and talk to a professional grief counsellor who will be able to help you to channel your grief into more positive pathways. I suggest starting by calling the Community Grief Center and speaking to someone there who can aid you in finding the help you may need. Please talk to me or one of the other facilitators after class if you need to if you feel any of these things happening in your life.

waves of grief

We are not our grief, we are grieving: Some Affirmations:

Story: The topic for tonight is based on something I learned from Andi during her cancer journey. I’ve modified something she used to say to not be about her illness but to be about grief. She decided early on that she was not going to be her cancer. She was going to be herself living with cancer and she was going to go on living despite it and be herself as much as possible through it all. 

Grief can be one of the most overwhelming emotional turmoils we ever experience. It can feel and be one of the most painful things we ever go through but, its good to remember, even during the pain that Grief is something that is happening to us but it isn’t us, we are separate from it so while we experienced  it, we can also move through it and it can move through us and while we may be changed by it, we are still growing, learning and healing through it all even when we don’t notice it happening.

And she did. With grace and courage and an amazing strength I still look at with awe, she got up every day and took the time to do her hair, put on makeup, dress nicely and then face the day with as much grace and clarity as she could no matter what was happening inside her as the war between her cancer and her chemo treatments went on and on. 

waves of grief

So very early in my grief journey, I told myself very clearly, if she could do that within the context of what she was living with and going through, I could do no less. And I tried every day to not feel sorry for myself and just get up and do the best I could to face what ever the day brought me, especially in the raw and highly emotional days of the first few months. 

Some days were more and even much more difficult than others and some days more successful than others but I kept focused on her thought and on honoring her by being as strong as I could be. I kept telling myself, I am not my grief, I am just grieving and I need to learn to navigate that grief as best as I can.

My first month was a whirlwind of thoughts, feelings and ideas. For others I’ve talked to the whole first year is just a blur and was done in a daze and for others, it was every way in between. The best thing I know to do is to just do it, to keep on keeping on,  experience it and let it carry you along as it twists and turns, ebbs and flows and the waves crash up on the shore of your being.

Our grief may become all encompassing for a while, painful beyond relief for a while but with time we also begin to separate from it and become ourselves again, separate from the grief, honoring our loved ones in memory, and while changed by it, we are not our grief! 

And we will grieve for as long as we grieve but for most of us, the very worst will pass with time and we will learn to find more peaceful places to live and grow in as time moves us forward in our lives.

We grieve because we love: 

I believe it is important to know and remember that it is our love and the ending of our lives with our loved ones that cause us to grieve. We miss them and all the interactions and time spent together. We miss the things we did and said and were to each other, the things we will never get to do or the things we will never do again. And for all these and more, we experience deep sorrow and pain, believing that we will not be able to have any more time or experiences or love with our spouse or partner.

And everything and every moment reminds of this. And it hurts! And it becomes the most wished for thing we have, if i could only have another hug or another day or… 

Here’s a verse and chorus from a song we wrote while working on last month’s support group notes that captured those feelings pretty strongly I  think.

Now there is empty,

now there is sadness,

now there is living all alone,

Now there is wishing, 

with every breath I take,

for your somehow coming home. 

…I am standing,

but I’m wracked with pain,

my life has been shattered,

from us, into me, all alone…

from “I remain” (howard and andi fischer 12/2020)

While it’s the one thing we want the most,  it’s the one thing we can never have in that way again and though it hurts more than we can say, it is a truth that must be faced and accepted and in a way, it is also a door into our next life. We feel these things because we love!!!

 One of my thoughts early on in my journey was “its what I want most in the world but I can’t have it so I probably have to figure out how to do without, or to want something else. I don’t have to like it, I just have to find a way to do it.”

This is important:

There is no one way to grieve or mourn nor is there one way to go through grief and mourning nor is there a time table, nor a “should do” list nor a calendar… How ever long it takes, that’s how long it takes.

We all must find our own way to grieve and mourn. I believe there are commonalities in what we experience in all of our journeys that we share to some extent but in the end you still have to do it yourself in your own way, its your journey. 

We can get ideas from each other, from books, from support groups, friends  and counsellors or other external sources and use them to help us, we can have friends and family to help us in our daily lives and to talk to and share our journeys with but in the end, it’s about what works for you! 

We can dilute the pain and emotional distress somewhat by sharing it with others like we do here in our Support Group. And my strong feeling is that, as far as how we each do it individually, we should do our grief and mourning as it feels right to each of us, from our hearts and our emotions,  our minds and our souls; and let our grieving be our own unique journey and express as and when it will.  

Remember, It’s OK to grieve! 

Because there is no one way nor one right way, do it your way and do it in your own time. It’s not up to others to tell you how or when to grieve. 

When it’s time to do something, you will know it but it has to be when it feels right for you not when somebody or some book or something you saw on the internet says you should do something or be something. 

It’s just different for each of us and we need to follow our own timetable and our own hearts. Again, How ever long it takes, that’s how long it takes.

Hiding your Grief or Hiding From your Grief:

You can also choose to try to hide your feelings of grief, not express them,  and keep them to yourself, locked inside. 

You can also hide from your grief, get super busy and try to put the feelings off because they hurt so badly. You may even think they have gone away…

When we do either of these things, however, the feelings of grief don’t really go away. What we’ve done is let the feelings and emotions become hidden but they are still unresolved and they can build up inside us where they still remain even if we don’t think so. And they may get even more intense tucked away inside us until they find a way to come out sometime later down the road. Sometimes they explode as anger, sometimes they just build up and return with even more overwhelming pain than before. 

You can probably tell which way I think is better or at least more productive.

Express you grief and mourning whenever you need to and whenever the flood comes and carries you away: 

Since grief feelings come without warning and don’t care where you are or what you are doing or who you’re with, you can choose to express them when and where they strike you. 

You can let them happen and not fight them knowing that many times, maybe that’s all you can do, you may have no choice. Just take a “grief moment” when ever and where ever you need to. 

You also don’t have to run from your grief because it hurts so badly, you can embrace it and experience it and remember that it is also a celebration of your love. We will talk more about these two ideas in another session.

In the end, this is your grief to experience. It is uniquely yours by the nature of your love and the life you shared with your loved ones. No matter how difficult it seems, do it your way, from your heart and please continue to come share your journey and your stories together with us each month to help you on your road to hope and healing.