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Essential tasks of mourning

Updated: Aug 11

… “accepting the reality of the loss as one of the essential tasks of mourning.” “The others are to process grief’s pain; to adjust to a world without the deceased; and to find an enduring connection with the deceased while simultaneously embracing new life.”

-From the book: RESILIENT GRIEVING by Lucy Hone

As I walked through my gardens this morning with my coffee cup in hand (while still in my pajamas), my eyes first landed on the golden planter filled with orange flowers. Below is the rock that is engraved with the following: I thought about you today in the garden. This is the space in my yard that is for Mom. The rest of that front garden is filled with perennials, all in bloom, all thriving.

It is August, I thought. Early August. In the next few weeks leading up to September 5, the weather will get cooler and the smell in the air will change. I can sit on my porch at night and listen to the crickets. September 5 marks 44 years since my mom died by suicide. As always, I’ll be in my garden for a bit that day.

THAT day is not hard to remember; 44 years later I can return to it in an instant. 44 years later, after reading the book RESILIENT GRIEVING (quoted above), I know that my grief process was what it needed to be for me.

I owe a debt to Jim Quinn, survivor, who read this book and had 25 copies sent to my office to be given to grievers. Once those 25 are gone, SPS will continue to order them and hand them out. It’s an easy read filled with good “stuff”.

“Accepting the reality of the loss” is the first and most important task of our grief journey. The shock that enfolds us when first we learn of it is what protects us from dissolving into nothingness. Mom died. She died by her own hand which is a major additional part for all of us. Learning to say, “’Mom died”, “Mom is dead”, were hard words to say. But the reality of that, and those words, were important. If you know me at all, you know I don’t like to say, “I lost Mom” because if she were “lost”, I’d be out looking for her.

Grief experts agree that using the words “died”, and “dead” are important to our grief process.

“Process grief’s pain”. As my grief occurred, I needed to deal with it. In the grocery store, at first, I’d find that I couldn’t finish shopping or if I did have a cart of food, I couldn’t check out. Being on an escalator in a store and feeling the grief envelop me, I’d cry and then leave. Talking about her, I’d choke up. I did, without knowing it was what I needed to do, process that grief. I didn’t push it away or “stuff it”. That kind of non-processing can lead to physical illnesses, be it short or long term.

“To adjust to a world without the deceased.” In the beginning, when the phone would ring, I’d think it was Mom. I’d pick up the phone to call her and realize that she wouldn’t answer because she was dead. All holidays changed.

Seeing things or going places I’d think, “Wait until I tell Mom” and then have to process that while I could speak the words into the air, I couldn’t call her and tell her. Not having “Mom” hugs was huge for me. Not hearing her voice. Not, not, not…

“To find an enduring connection with the deceased while simultaneously embracing new life.” This took a long, long time. It was so easy to go down the rabbit hole of what I could have, should have done ,that put me back to having to accept the reality of her death. The enduring connection is that feeling I have that she is always with me. I can sit on a swing in my front garden and feel her, talk to her. I can sit writing this newsletter and know that she is with me. Embracing new life happened. None of this happened quickly or even within the first 5 years.

When my Bill died almost 2 years ago, I faced the same steps. Perhaps because of our years together, perhaps because his death was expected and I’d been grieving already, perhaps because he’d been sick for so long, the acceptance of his death was easy. “Accepting” it was easy; the fact that he died was NOT easy at all.

The hardest part for me continues to be “adjusting to the world without” him. I see his tools on the garage walls, ceiling, and doors (what’s left of them.) I sold his car a year ago. What was in it is still in a cloth bag that I stumble over in my garage. Our routines, our conversations,….gone. The “goneness” is the hardest part.

I DO feel an enduring connection to Bill and my life has moved forward. I see signs that he is around me and I feel him with me. I hear his voice in my head and often feel him walking beside me.

RESLIENT GRIEF” is what I hope for each survivor to have. I highly recommend purchasing this book or stopping by SPS headquarters to receive a free copy. I’ll be quoting from this book in newsletters to come.

The family of survivors is one we didn’t choose but once we’re a part of it, the support and love continues to give.

-From Stephanie.

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