Sunday, October 4, 2009

Time and Its Function in the Grief Process

Last week I was talking to a friend whose husband died last year suddenly. Coincidentally, another friend whose husband died years ago was standing with me. My friend said asked how the other gal with the recent loss was doing. She answered, “Very well, thanks.” I looked at her and thought, yes, she does look much better, as I knew she would after a year or so. “Time is a great healer,” said my other friend, and turned to me…”in most cases.” I knew she was referring to the fact that the loss of a child was too great a loss for anyone to have to bear. I appreciated her comment, but lost it then. I became very teary-eyed, as I shook my head and agreed with my friend. The passage of time does ease most pain.

I got to thinking about TIME in relationship to grieving and realized time plays an important function in the grief process in general.

Time is precious to us. In relationship to our child, the time we spent with them is priceless. As we think of them now that they are gone, time stops for us. We want to remember everything we said to them, all the activities we went to with them, all the loving moments of hugging and kissing. Some of us record what we can remember (and it won’t be everything). We can then ask others what they remember and record some more. As the days, month, and years pass, we will continue to remember as will others. Keep recording and you will discover the gift of remembrance and comfort.

Impatient with time. Time can be a negative in our grief journey. Can we do this grief journey? How long will it take? We are impatient. We want all this to be over with, and soon. It won’t happen that way. Time will not release us. We don’t like that our child is gone; we don’t like that our spouse, our parents, our friends can’t make us feel better. We want to know what we can do to move us along. Wanting to heal is a good sign. Just take it slowly and be patient.

Time and choices. In our grief, will we make wise choices? Maybe, maybe not. We tend to want others to make those choices for us, to relieve us from that burden. We may not even care about what happens in our future right now. Don’t feel that way. Take charge, whether we feel we have the energy right now or not. Reclaim yourself.

Time to move on. As much as we’d like to heal and get better quickly, that won’t happen and others can’t expect us to be better in a month, a few months, or even a year. Everyone grieves differently and everyone is entitled to move at their own pace. Others may get impatient with us, may be uncomfortable with our need to talk about our loss, but that becomes their problem. They may walk away from us, but isn’t that their loss. We try to be the friend they want, but it is very hard. We hope they understand, but most don’t. Now we need friends who are willing to walk alongside us on our journey no matter how long that journey takes.

Time as benchmarks. When your child dies, you will experience many firsts: the first dinner without them, the first school day without waving goodbye, the first year, the first time we go back to work, the first summer vacation with one less family member; the first birthday after the death, and so on. When we pass these benchmarks, we can breathe a sigh of relief. We’ve made it through. We are surviving, even though it is impossible to believe that we did it or even wanted to.

Time to reflect. We each need moments for ourselves, when we don’t want to be with others or do activities we have always done, when we want to think about this loss that has changed our lives so irrevocably, when we want to reflect on “what now?” This doesn’t mean we are running away; it simply means that to act as if nothing has happened doesn’t work. When we realize we can accept what has happened, we are ready to re-enter the world we know. It will be a different world; we will have new priorities and goals; what was once important to us may no longer matter. But that is okay. Change can be for the good also.

Time is a healer
. The intensity we feel at the beginning of our loss will diminish with time and although the pain and hurt will never go away, we learn to deal with it, to live with the unanswered question, “Why me?” “Why my child?” The grief will always be with you and sometimes, unexpectedly, for no good reason, your eyes will become watery and tears may fall as you remember. Don’t be embarrassed. A wave of grief is a common occurrence as it was for me that night last week. It will pass, and your life will continue on with both special moments and private moments locked forever deep in your heart.

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