© 2012 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.
This week brought news of the deaths of three longtime friends. The comments flying back and forth in email brought back vivid memories of the friends, together with great stories that were new to me, shared by others. It was hard to create short newsletter blurbs about how these friends would be missed. Everything I wrote brought to mind more ways the departed had shared their love, their laughter, and their creative gifts.
Grief hurts, grief takes its own time, and grief takes so many forms. The late psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross evolved a model of five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. A few people seem to be able to shrug and directly accept that a loved one has ceased to be with us. Some grieve for years, appearing to be in perpetual sadness. Occasionally, this takes the form of leaving the deceased person’s belongings untouched, as though the person is still present but out of the room. England’s Queen Victoria so passionately loved Prince Albert that, upon his death, all household members were required to wear black—until Victoria’s death. The Queen apparently was uninterested in moving from depression to acceptance.
More commonly, many people feel alternating waves of memories, sadness, and loss. Many have trouble concentrating on anything but the departed and their loss. Some get physical symptoms such as fatigue, chest pain, and shortness of breath. Some pray. Some seek counseling. Some spend time alone. Some get irritable because they are stuffing their feelings. But the goal is to move through the discomforts and, on your own schedule, get to the fifth stage, acceptance.
Can you help yourself move through grief faster? Of course, counseling can help. Fortunately, there are also some things you can do without a professional, to shorten your grief process. These are seven top choices.
– Journal. Find a quiet time and place to start writing down your memories of the loved one and the times you shared together. Be sure to include detailing the best things you will remember about this person. How did they inspire you? Forget any conflicts you had and focus solely on the good.
– Write them a letter. Write to the loved one as though they have been transferred. Share all your best memories, and tell them you miss them. Notice how much lighter you feel.
– Go to the service. Stay for the cookies and punch. If there is a funeral, a mass, a memorial service, or a memories lunch, go. Don’t worry if you are not from the same faith tradition. Follow the cues of those leading the service, and you will be fine. The officiant and the family are expecting people of all backgrounds. Feel your feelings, cry your tears, and share your memories with the other loved ones there. Introduce yourself to the family members and tell them you are so sorry for their loss. Tell them what a great friend the loved one was, and that you are grateful to have had many years of friendship.
– Write in the online memory book and Facebook. The funeral home will have an online memory book, and your fond memories will be a great gift to the family. Send a note if there is no online memory book. Post on Facebook. While the person’s account will disappear as soon as Facebook knows they are deceased, you and your friends can share online.
– Give something in their memory. According to your budget, endow a chair at a university, start a foundation, create a cookie and name it after them. Give a personalized brick for that newly restored theater. Volunteer a few hours at their favorite soup kitchen or food bank.
– Share your photos. The family may never have seen those shots you took of your friend beaming at you on the hiking trail. Email the photos to the family, church, or funeral home, with notes on who else is in the frame and when and where it was taken. These will be treasured for years.
– Get your fresh air and exercise. Your DHEA levels will have plummeted when you got the news your friend had died. This is part of what makes mourners depressed and tired. Easy hikes in beautiful areas, walks at the Botanical Garden, swimming at the lake, or yoga in your yard will all calm and restore you, as well as returning your DHEA levels to normal.
Everyone has lost loved ones, and each has handled it differently. May your memories be strong and beautiful. And may you move through your grief process, to the extent possible, with ease and grace.
Reach the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org