As I head towards the 12th year since my daughter’s passing, I would have assumed that I would have gotten my head around the whole concept and direction of grief. Yet the only thing I have learned about grief in this time, is that I actually know nothing about grief.
When you lose someone that has a piece of your heart there is no set way to move through the pain and if anyone is waiting for me or anybody else to get over loss well believe me, they will be waiting a long time.
Grief is messy, it doesn’t fit into a box. There isn’t one way for everyone. Grief is unique, personal and often very lonely.
There are so many expectations about grief, a time to morn, a time to accept and a time to remember. Yet rules and assumptions over loss need to be binned. We cannot expect one person to grieve like another. Nor should we have the expectation or judge if someone deals with the pain in a way we wouldn’t.
I remember vividly people’s well-meaning advice and comments. “Time will heal” “she is free from her disability” “you need to move on and pull yourself together ” oh and my favourite (insert sarcasm here) “God always chooses the special ones to call home, he needed another angel in heaven”. Honestly the times I wanted to answer WTF to this one you wouldn’t believe.
I could rant on for weeks about the comments that made reference to my grief being less or that Olivia’s death wasn’t as devastating as it would be if she hadn’t had a disability or that her neurological disorder made me more prepared for her loss and so on and so. But I’m not falling down that rabbit hole right now, maybe another time.
Grief is not defined by the number of years, days, moments someone has lived. It’s by the love you have.
The best description I’ve heard to describe grief is this
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” Jamie Anderson
Recently I have faced more loss, the people I love and care for have faced loss and right now in this current pandemic there is so much grief. Hearing and seeing all those in pain makes me acknowledge how raw grief is still now for me.
Listening to those hurting right now makes me understand there are no words that can bring peace. No gesture that can ease any pain. But there are things that can make people feel less alone.
Firstly, and most importantly I feel is just to give love.
Don’t offer advice or platitudes.
Don’t tell them what they should be doing.
Don’t tell them how they should behave.
Listen and give them space to tell you all their heart, share their memories even if you were part of them in fact especially if you were. Just let them remember and hold on as they need to.
Don’t tell them that those they love are in a better place or God has called them home. Whilst I personally have no doubt that heaven is rather incredible, Livvy’s place is here in my arms and I truly don’t believe God stole my daughter from me because he needed another angel. Don’t make my God out to be someone like that.
Don’t remind them that life has to go on, they know this but have to find their own way to navigate forward.
And the biggest one of all, speak the name of the one they have lost. I know for so many they are scared that talking about the missing loved one will bring pain. Believe me the pain is already there, the silence just brings fear that the memories are fading that people are forgotten. I love talking about Livvy, feel so blessed when people ask me about her.
Just be there, be a friend, love on them and don’t give up on them. If they seem distant from you it is not personal the world is different for them and it takes time to re-find your way. Nearly 12 years on I’m still navigating this life without Livvy.
Grief is a journey that only ends when we meet again. Life can and will be joyful again, just different from the one you had planned. Time will pass and some memories will fade but the imprint of those you love is timeless and is forever tattooed in your heart.