I grew up in a pastor’s family exposed to both joys and sorrows. There were marriages, births, and deaths; sometimes, these were all within a week’s span! My dad soldiered on through whatever life brought him and the parishioners. He was resolute and focused. It was not until later in my life, while also serving as the care partner for him and mom, that I truly saw behind the curtain.
When Mom passed, they had been married for almost 70 years. He lived for five years following her passing and missed her every day. It was also during those five years that I observed the grief process unfold in living color. Guess what…it is not a straight line! Later, I would feel the full force of grief following my father’s passing. You see, I could “soldier on” and devote my energies to my father and my business and stuff my grief over mom’s passing deep inside for only so long. When my father passed, I grieved them both and the damned-up emotions held in check for five years released.
“There is no way around grief and loss. You can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and hopefully come out the other side. The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.” – Johnny Cash
Here are the steps I have found continue to guide my path:
- Go ahead… remember! Go through photo albums and/or videos. Reminisce with others that knew them.
- Give yourself permission to hurt and grieve the loss.
- Pray often. Faith is important in coping.
- Be patient. Intense grief can last for many years…don’t try to rush the process.
- Avoid isolating – even if it seems easier. You need others!
Just to be clear, I still have waves of grief that hit me; I let them! I use them to celebrate their lives and recall the lessons they taught.