It took me years to understand
that this too was a gift.*
Sometimes after a significant loss – such as a spouse, child, father, or mother – you find yourself so busy taking care of others, “being strong,” and/or just surviving day-to-day, that you really don’t allow yourself to deeply grieve or mourn. That doesn’t mean that you don’t occasionally have times of deep pain and sadness, but you then say to yourself, “OK, get on with your life. That’s what he or she would want you to do.” Then time goes by – it may be six months or eighteen – and all of a sudden it hits you like a brick. This has been aptly labeled by some as “delayed grief.”
When grief sneak up on you several months after your loss, it may be difficult to share it with others because it seems they won’t understand. They thought you were OK, and “beyond” it all, so how can you bring up your grief now?
There are some things you can do. They are not too different from what’s needed immediately after a loss. You just need to give yourself permission to enter the process.
- Seek out a grief counselor or support group. Guidance from a professional, or a group of fellow mourners who understand, can be just what you need to get through a rough patch. Sometimes anger, guilt and regret surface because they, along with other feelings, were delayed. Know that these feelings are natural, even at a late stage.
- Find readings or tapes on the grief journey. The Hello Grief website is a good example of such a resource.
- Refrain from making hasty decisions or entering quickly into a committed relationship out of loneliness. Give yourself time to move through this delayed period of mourning. When you have sorted out the challenge of delayed grief, there will be time for these things.
- Maintain your strength by eating well and exercising. Exercise helps clear the mind in addition to being good for you.
Here are some other words by Mary Oliver that speak to me and may speak to you, also.
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
I went closer,
and I did not die.
Had His hand in this,
As well as friends.
Still I was bent…
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It is not the weight you carry
But how you carry it—
Books, bricks, grief—
It’s all in the way
You embrace it, carry it…
Even when grief enters late, you can move towards the pain, and through it, by caring for yourself and giving yourself permission to grieve and mourn.
Embrace it, carry it, be startled when you laugh, admire beauty, and begin to heal.
* * * *
*Poems by Mary Oiver can be found in her book of poetry Thirst.