I've been doing a lot of work on the bereavement project lately in my role in the church and it has been both eye-opening and challenging. We have set up a Bereavement Support Group in one of the churches, and it meets monthly. We had two widows the first month and four in the second meeting. I have heard all sorts of comments and sayings just lately: "of course you are crying, dear: if you didn't cry, it would be as if you didn't love him....." was just one of them. It makes me wonder what folk must think about me, not having shed a tear in public, and not a great deal in private either.
I went on a course provided by Care for the Family, which was excellent, and incredibly informative. I have come across plenty of websites and blogs written to support and encourage people who have lost their partners. I am also looking at a stack of books on the same topic. I'm a bit inundated! Then yesterday I went to a chat with some women from another church who are promoting information about dying well. So I am working both sides of the event now.
(image from awarenessdays.co.uk)
I have read a really good article tonight about all kinds of grieving not being the same. When I look back over my life, I have lost both grandmothers and a grandfather, a couple of aunts, my mother and now my husband. I've experienced the death of my best friend's brother from suicide, as well as the death of a dearly beloved colleague's son, also from suicide but by another method. I've seen people grieve and I have done it myself.
Every single relationship brings on a different kind of grief. For me, grandparents' deaths were not as traumatic: they were all over 80 and two were actually over 90 when they died, and so they had achieved the age where younger children are not so shocked to hear of their deaths. I was sad that they had indeed died, but to a young child, as I was when my dad's parents passed on, they were relatively remote characters and I did not feel it as hard as my other grandmother, who died in 2002, four years after her daughter, my mother. Of all the deaths, my mother's was the worst. We knew she had cancer, but the death itself came very quickly in the space of 8 hours. I grieved terribly and agonisingly for nearly two years, had to have anti-depressants and therapy, and it was a huge loss.
The ladies at the Bereavement Support Group were talking, as we hoped that they would, and one was sharing that the doctor had wanted to put in a support package for her in order to help her to look after her terminally ill husband. She had refused it and said that she wanted to do everything herself. She was a bit shocked when I said that I was willing to accept all the help there was, partly because I was also thinking about the girls. She had expected me to agree with her, and was a bit shocked that I didn't. But then she has other ideas about her own grief, too, and doesn't expect to really enjoy life any longer now that her life partner has gone.
Oh, how challenged this society is by death.
(image from wecandiebetter.com)
I am finding that people don't want to talk about death, unless they are affected in some way by it, but then even those who have close knowledge of it will expect that other's experience will be similar if not the same.
It can never be the same. Each one of us has a different life experience, different backgrounds, different relationships with our deceased beloved [and in some cases, not beloved] and we come from different death experiences - why on earth would anyone expect grief to affect us all in the same way?