Grief Revisited—What I Know Now
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4
This article is more personal than usual. Three years ago I wrote a health and wellness article about grief following the death of my husband, Mike. I have re-read that article and many of the things that I shared in the article still hold true. But I have learned a lot over the last three years and I hope it is helpful to those who are grieving or knows someone who is grieving (which is just about everyone).
The first year after Mike died, I was operating on auto-pilot, in a fog. In year two, things all of a sudden got real. At this point, I finally was able to accept that my husband of nearly 38 years had died. There were many emotions in year two—anger, depression, despair, but also some joy started to creep in. In year three, I finally realized that he was, in fact, not coming back. I was able to clear out his section of the closet and his drawers. Now, I am starting year four. I am still trying to figure things out. Who is Kathy Ferguson? Should I sell my house? Should I hire someone to mow my lawn? Should I spread his ashes at the places he spoke about? Grief is hard!
These things I know now:
You never move on from grief, but you do move forward with grief. You don’t get over it, so don’t expect that to happen.
The look of grief changes. Yes, I am still grieving, but it is not an “acute” grief. My kids and I actually laugh about things Mike did—and there were lots of laugh-worthy moments.
You have to be patient and forgive people. People mean well, but sometimes they say the wrong things. I now realize that some of the things I have said to people probably weren’t helpful. Even though someone says or does the “wrong” thing, doesn’t mean they don’t care.
Relationships change. And by relationships, I mean nearly all Relationships with children, couple friends, friends of his, friends of mine, other family members and in-laws all change.
People are reluctant to talk about a loved one who has died with the person who is grieving. I think the worry is that memories of that person will be brought up and the conversation will become uncomfortable or that it will be too difficult for the person who is grieving. Don’t worry about bringing up memories—they are constantly in the griever’s mind anyway. Most times the person who is grieving wants to talk about their loved one.
A listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a hand to hold are the best gifts that you can give someone who is grieving. You can’t imagine how much this helps.
Making decisions was (and still is) hard. Even the smallest decisions, like which restaurant to go to, can be difficult.
Sometimes the person who is grieving puts on a brave face and looks like they are doing great, but inside they can be crumbling.
Your brain may not work like it used to. I am not sure if this goes away, but I have noted changes in the way I think. My memory is definitely not as good as it used to be. I am so disorganized! I used to be one of the most organized people I knew—now, not so much (or not at all).
At some point, you begin to experience life more fully. I have challenged myself to do things that I probably wouldn’t have done before. I am more thankful for the simple things. I enjoy being out in nature. It feels great to sweat—either from exercise or from working in the yard. I really look at people and listen more closely. I am more empathetic.
Life is not about collecting stuff; it is about collecting memories.
I am more thankful for the blessings that I have in my life—and there are a lot of them. Realizing this happened over time.
Sometimes the people you think will be there for you are not. People you never expect, become your biggest supporters.
Everyone experiences grief differently. There is no guideline with how grief is supposed to go.
You will never go back to being your “old self”. Grief changes you and you are never the same.
My faith and prayer are my foundation as I have been on my grief journey.
Most people’s expectations about grief are unrealistic. I love this diagram about grief and I have found this to be absolutely correct:
Expectation about how grief should go:
The expectation is that grief takes a predictable path and has a start point and an end point.
Your emotions with grief are all over the place. There are good days, weeks, months, but the grief is still there. The arrow signifies that it is ongoing.
Are you grieving? There are resources in the community:
Bethel holds a quarterly grief discussion/support group. Watch for information in the Sunday bulletin and the e-news for the next available session.
Season’s Hospice: The Center for Grief Education and Support (CGES) at Seasons Hospice in Rochester, Minnesota provides comprehensive loss and grief services for those who are grieving. All services are open to the public and are free of charge, but donations are gratefully accepted to support bereavement programs. For more information, call (507) 285-1930 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayo Clinic Hospice: Mayo Clinic Hospice offers adult grief support groups three times a year. The groups are free and open to any adult who has experienced the death of a significant person in his or her life. Healing Adventures Camp is a free, one-day camp for children and teens (ages 5 to 18) who have experienced the death of someone special in their lives. For more information call or email 507-284-4002 or RSTHOPISCEBEREAVEMNT@mayo.edu
Rochester Assembly of God church hosts GriefShare. This program is a weekly seminar and support group for people who are grieving the death of someone close to them. Contact person: Ann Bartlett, Leader, 507-259-9378.
Heartland Hospice: Offers support groups in Rochester and the surrounding area. For more information, visit www.hcr-manorcare.com, Phone 507-292-1170.
Websites that I have found to be helpful:
One Fit Widow https://www.onefitwidow.com/
What’s Your Grief https://whatsyourgrief.com/
Facebook pages that I follow:
• Grief and Healing in the Afterloss
• Death of a Loved one; Quotes, Poems, and Resources
• Grief – How Do We Go On?