When you are grieving, it takes ten times the amount of energy to get through a day. So, you donít have extra energy to spar with relatives or friends who attempt to put you on a time schedule or give you very definite directions on how to mourn. Itís hard enough to get up in the morning, much less march to a drummer that is "foreign" to you. So, pamper yourself, be good to yourself, do what you need to do; not what others demand or pressure you to do. Listen to your heart. Learn that in pampering yourself, itís not out of selfishness, but out of wisdom. You are no good to anybody, including yourself, if you are a mess. So take care of yourself. A little step at a time. Do as much as you can do and donít feel guilty.
When my two eldest children, 21 year old Denis and 19 year old Peggy, were killed in an automobile accident, I had to learn how to make a new life without them. The most helpful lesson I learned was to surround myself with loving, compassionate people who did not try to "take my grief away," but rather were "just there" caring about me and not pushing me. My heart said, "I donít want you to fix my sadness. I only want you near me."
When you feel comfortable and relaxed with people, you can be yourself and you can give yourself permission to cry. You can talk about your loved one, look at pictures, share storiesóall important steps in grieving. Your whole body feels a sense of peace when you are surrounded by loving people who give you time to walk through your grief and to heal.
You donít have to "disown" relatives and friends who are hard to deal with right now, no matter how well meaning they are. Just wait until you feel stronger to be in their presence, when you can tell them what you need. It takes time to learn what you need; and strength to inform others what you have learned. Grieving is an education and not everyone had studied GRIEF 101!
Most people feel satisfied when they have paid you a visit, attended the wake or funeral, sent a Mass card, a sympathy card, or a note, sent flowers or food, or a donation to a desired fund or charity. They donít realize that the pain goes on and on and that you really need "follow-up". Friendly notes, cards and phone calls help us grieving folks as we put one foot in front of the other, walking through the "Valley of the Shadow." Sensitive people can give your heart a lift when youíre having a down day or a rough season. The mailman can brighten your day, when you know someone is thinking of you. "Unexpressed words or quiet thinking of you thoughts" do little to lift your spirits when you need a boost.
When my children died, a total stranger wrote to me to express her sympathy on my tragic loss. She never missed sending little notes for each "Hallmark" holiday and in between, not only to me, but also to my daughter, Annie, my one remaining child who had just gone away to college. Although Catherine never knew my Denis and Peggy, she never forgot their birthdays and anniversaries, or Motherís Day, always remembering them with her beautiful words and special masses and telling me she feels she knows them. We have become best friends and I am walking testimony that a caring person can hasten your healing.