On the heels of Kroger Grant Consultants’ (KGC) two, very-well-received MAX Talks about our president, Anne Crowe Kroger, rebuilding her life after the untimely death of her first husband, KGC has been asked numerous time to write about grief and healing from that pain. You may say, we’ve avoided this topic for a number of reasons. But, here’s what Anne knows about grief, it’s as personal as your thumbprint! As Max Porter said (editor of the UK publication Granta), “Grief is as individual as a fingerprint.”
You may have lost your spouse as did Anne. You may have lost a parent, a sibling or, God forbid, a child. While we may share the type of loss, our reactions to it are solely our own. To categorize grief or provide a carbon copy process of recovering is not only insincere, it’s just not accurate.
Here’s what Anne will say about healing:
1. Put down the book! No grief book is going to walk you through healing or feeling better. Books simplify the pain and make the reader believe if they just go through the steps (what is this AA?) of recovery, they’ll feel better. It’s not that simple. There’s no roadmap for this journey. You don’t recover from your loss. Eventually, hopefully, you move forward and learn to live with a hole in your heart. You build a new life, after time, around that cavity.
The grief books may be better left to our family members and friends, so that they have an inkling of what we’re going through. They will never truly understand it though. Give them some slack. They can’t ‘get it’, and you wouldn’t want them to. While grieving my spouse, I always said, “I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy.” When friends kindly said they didn’t know what I was going through or what I felt, I was glad. And I said, “You’re not supposed to.” And, that’s ok.
2. It is not a process! At least not a logical, step-by-step formula for recovery. I say hogwash to the 7 stages of grief! You may feel anger, disbelief, shock, but not necessarily in the order the ‘stages’/experts say you should. And, you may never feel one or more of these emotions. And, that’s ok. It’s ok to be angry. To be depressed. To feel however you feel. It’s your grief. Your fingerprint. Your healing and rebuilding.
3. Don’t let anyone tell you that your loved one is in a better place or it was meant to be. It is not their loved one, and it’s perfectly ok to want them with you, no matter what. When did our society, our good, decent society, come up with this pat phrase? Who thought this was ever a good thing to say? It’s not!
4. Find a grief counselor, individual or group, only if it works for you! I tried all of the above, including speaking with as many people as possible who had lost a spouse. I was on a mission to heal and rebuild my life. It was what I had to do to get through the days and create a new life. And, finding someone to talk with worked for me. At the end of the day, as I stated in the Max Talk, I found my church lady with whom I could explore pain, love for and from my husband, and move forward.
5. Cry for them. Rant about them. Don’t hide from your pain, either hiding it from yourself or others. It’s reasonable to be sad. It’s ok to cry in public! Really. You are sad. Let the world know it. Don’t worry about what other’s think. This isn’t about them. I remember the first funeral I attended after my husband passed. I bawled loudly in church. It wasn’t about the poor deceased man, whom I did love. It was about being at a funeral, being in a beautiful church, hearing music and just experiencing loss. My brother was horrified. He didn’t get it. Others don’t, and won’t, understand. And, that’s ok. Cry anyway.
But it’s also ok to celebrate your loved one too. To do something, big or small in their memory. As big as an annual fundraiser, think golf tournament, or as small as reading their favorite book or drinking their favorite whiskey. They and their love for you should be remembered.
6. Do whatever makes you feel better – without hurting yourself or others, of course. Take a trip. Take a sabbatical. Find a church. Make new friends. Hibernate (for awhile) and eat bon bons and drink wine. Find whatever makes your heart hurt a little less, even if it’s just for a moment or a week-long vacation. In the beginning it’s about just getting through the days. As the months go on, your heart, while it’ll always grieve, it won’t hurt 24/7 anymore. You need to find the new you – the person you are going to be without your loved one. (Finding the new you, because you are and will be a different person, is another whole blog!) This is not easy to do. It takes time. Give yourself that time.
7. However you feel, is ok! Because at the end of the day, you’re in this alone. People can be there for you. Your loved ones and friends want you to find peace. They want you to be happy again. They want you to go back to who you were before the loss. What they don’t understand is that person you were before loss is gone. So, accept the kind gestures. I had people buy me wine, take me to dinner, to the movies, on bike rides and ski trips. They were there for me and helped me to pass the time. This was so important in the dark days. People can make you feel ok in the moment, and that’s important. Say yes please and yes thank you to the offers. I did! But, only you can grieve your loved one, only you can heal from the pain, only you can decide if/when it’s time to move forward. It’s your fingerprint.