A month ago, I lost my Mom. I had dealt with loss before. I had lost family members who I adored. I had lost best friends suddenly. I had experienced loss through the eyes of my clients and worked at being a source of support. I have been there for family and friends. I have read the books and articles concerning grief, complicated bereavement and can recite the stages from rote. I can honestly say that very little prepares you for loss other than one thing.
There is only one thing that keeps you mentally healthy all the time. You will still feel the sadness and the pain of the loss. There is no avoiding those feelings. However, if you practice this one thing, you will navigate the grief better.
What’s the secret? HONESTY
One of the stages of grief, according to Kubler-Ross, is denial. You would need to be completely delusional to deny the death of someone. However, this denial is really based in a child-like disbelief based in hope. In the case of my own grief, I will admit to expecting her to enter a room or finding myself waiting for her call. The night she died, my father called me from her phone and I answered it nervously, expecting to hear her voice. When we continue to entertain this hope and not dispel them with rational thinking, we create a lie. In this case, being rational is staying within the honest reality. It is ultimately the saving grace to learning to live without this person.
Honesty also will save you from concocting a myth about the person you have lost. Many of my clients and some family fall into this trap of creating a fairy tale about the deceased. This is where the idea of ‘there are no bad dead people’ comes from. Everybody was a saint when they die. Obviously, this isn’t true about everyone. Denying that your parent was less than perfect is to deny your own trauma or pain from your childhood. By creating this mythical parent or loved one, you deny your own feelings. You are not allowing honest consideration of situations that led to trauma and pain. In my case, my Mom was not perfect. My Mom, up until I was in college, was a workaholic and had little time for kids. Only as I grew up and became an adult did she become a better Mom and a good friend (when I needed her to be).
Honesty also allows you to be real with how you feel. If the tears come up, you cry. If anger bubbles to the surface, you become angry. If the most you can muster during your grief is making a sandwich, then enjoy the sandwich. Be honest with where you are and how you feel. This will allow you to feel and be who you need to be.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friends and family who have been so wonderfully supportive during this time.
Specifically, special shout out to my favorite sister-in-law in the whole wide world who has been a constant source of awesome. Mari, you are amazing and wonderful and beautiful and one of my favorite people on earth.
What’s the point of having a platform if you can’t talk about the people you love?