Loving Well: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief

A funeral or memorial service seems like a final chapter.  We close the coffin, close the doors and everyone goes home.

But for bereaved parents and their surviving children, it’s not an end, it is a beginning.

Much like a wedding or birth serves as the threshold to a new way of life, a new commitment, a new understanding of who you are, burying a child does the same.

I walked away from the cemetary overwhelmed by the finality of death–not in a theological sense–I believe firmly that my son lives with Jesus–but with the undeniable fact that he is no longer available to me on this earth.

And in the days afterward, I was struck by the inadequacy of a funeral or memorial service to make space for the deep and ongoing sense of loss and pain and sorrow.

There is a difference between mourning and grief.  Although before losing Dominic I never bothered to notice.

I think we confuse the two on a regular basis.  I know I did.

Mourning is defined as “the outward signs and rituals associated with sorrow for a person’s death.  It is usually limited in time by social conventions or community expectations”.   

Mourning is the more or less public (depending on the family’s choices) “Good-bye” to their loved one.  It’s a circumscribed set of things we do and time we spend welcoming others into the space where we remember, make final arrangements for a body and celebrate the life that has left us.

In most North American communities, we have dispensed with the tradition of draping pictures, windows and ourselves for six months to a year to mark the home and heart of someone who has suffered loss.

What used to be a longer span of time allowing for special accommodations due to grief has now been squeezed into about two weeks.

Our hyper-drive world insists that even parents who bury a child show up to work, begin to participate and act like they have it “together” in public much sooner than our frail human bodies and broken hearts can manage.

Grief is more than a feeling.  It invades your heart, your mind, your body and your soul

Grief is the deep and poignant distress caused by bereavement..

It cannot be circumscribed by time and refuses to limit itself according to the expectations of others or even myself.  It will last (though perhaps not with the same intensity) as long as I live.

Because unlike a funeral, missing my son will not come to an end until I am reunited with him in heaven.

And we need to talk about this.

We need to help ourselves and others understand that grief changes who we are.  It changes how we perceive the world.  It alters our sense of self and impacts our relationships with others.

I am not as fragile as I was just weeks or months after Dominic’s death.  I have learned to put on a smile and pass by his favorite food in the grocery store without crying.  I can remember funny things he said or did without simultaneously experiencing gut-wrenching pain that he is no longer here to do them.

But I am still grieving.  

I am still working out how this missing is weaving itself into the fabric of who I am.

And it is WORK.

Much of the work I have to do on my own–I have to think about and feel and embrace the changes that have been thrust upon me.  But for some of the work, I need the help of others.  I need to be able to speak aloud my thoughts and feelings and receive feedback so that I’m not stuck in unfruitful inner dialogue.

It requires energy and resources.

While I am doing this grief work, my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy is largely consumed by it.  I am unavailable more often.  I have a smaller capacity to absorb sudden change and unexpected events. I’m uncomfortable in crowds.  I tire more easily.

And it takes TIME.  

I have discovered that no matter how much I want to speed up this process, it will not be hurried along.  And it proceeds in a “two-steps-forward-one-step-back” fashion so even when I feel I am making progress, I discover I’m not as far along as I think I am or would like to be.

So how to love well at this stage in my grief journey?  When I’m transitioning from “good-bye” to grief?  When I’m trying to understand this new life I never expected to live?

  • Acknowledge my ongoing pain and struggle.
  • Encourage me by allowing me to share honestly.
  • Be patient.  I want to heal but I don’t have control over how long it will take.
  • Don’t shut me out or shut me down.  Grief is uncomfortable for both of us.
  • Remember my son.  I need to know that others miss him too.

Rejoice with those who rejoice [sharing others’ joy], and weep with those who weep [sharing others’ grief].

Romans 12:15 AMP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Melanie

I am a shepherd, wife and mother of four amazing children, three that walk the earth with me and one who lives with Jesus. This is a record of my grief journey and a look into the life I didn't choose. If you are interested in joining a community of bereaved parents leaning on the promises of God in Christ, please like the public Facebook page, "Heartache and Hope: Life After Losing a Child" and join the conversation.

10 thoughts on “Loving Well: Transitioning From “Good-bye” to Grief”

  1. I didn’t realize there was a distinction between mourning and grief. Thanks for pointing that out. So much value in this short post! Thanks for sharing your broken heart and hard earned wisdom with all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t either until I started doing some reading-I rarely think deeply of things that don’t touch me personally. But it makes sense when we experience the disconnect from this side of things, doesn’t it? That what is a single event for others is a lifelong experience for us…

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  2. This post so poiniently identifies every aspect of my feelings and attempt at how to grieve… Separating mourning from grief is a daily renewal. While I lost my father 16 years ago, he prepared me his entire life that each day was carpe diem. He was born with a congenital heart defect so the medical advances gave him 71 glorious inspirationally full years. In contrast, I lost my 22 year old son 8 weeks ago mysteriously… No virus, bacterial infection, didn’t drink, drug… Perfectly healthy and woke to flu like symptoms for 4 days with medical tests daily and began to have seizures and died 9 days later. Still no explanation. I was truly clueless before his death that grieving is a cellular , breath by breath, lifelong process now. Your blog has been a daily nugget of strength and comfort. Keep sharing your gift as I keep sharing this blog with others who ask how are you, I send this to them, those grieving I share this with them. Peace

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    1. Dee Dee,
      I’m thankful that the blog is helpful. I’m sorry that you are still waiting to find out what took your son from you. It is 22 months today and I am still in a minute-by-minute struggle (although that might be too strong a word) to live in the here and now and also bear the weight of missing him. I didn’t know, either, until I lost a child just how very much grieving becomes part of who you are. I guess I saw it as a literary device to explain some people’s choices in a story line. I hope you have some others to encourage you on your journey and to hold your hand when things seem too hard to bear alone.

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  3. So true!!!! I am genuinely sorry for the loss that you endure. Corporate America gives you 3 days to mourn, grieve, and return to work as if nothing ever happened. I lost my father to suicide and went into melt down mode for 2 years. If I lost one of my children I dont know how I would begin that journey through grief or even if I could survive it. Your words are a gift to those who may endure such complicated grief in the future and to those of us who are still enduring. Thank you for putting yourself in such a place of vulnerability to talk about what many dont think about until it happens to them.

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    1. I’m very sorry for you loss and the enduring pain of living without one you love. Suicide survivors have a lot to work through and it takes a great deal of time to do it. Thank you for your kind encouragement. I can’t bring my son back to life, but I can honor him by sharing my experience. May mercy and grace overwhelm you and may you continue to heal well.

      Liked by 1 person

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