Death is fecund and fertile, a space of giving way to the new, the bouyant, the growth of spring. Death is also tearing, rending and life shaking.
Things to know about Death:
1. It may not look like you expect it to.
2. There’s the death that is obvious – when someone you love dies.
3. And then there’s the death that isn’t – when your life changes, when you lose a job, when you gain a job, when your friendships shift, when you move, when you downsize, when you marry, when you divorce, when you have children.
These are the deaths of your current realities. These are the deaths that happen when life changes, and you must grieve all the stories you created that only made sense in the old realities.
4. Death is loss. And gain. Death is breathing room, space to expand. Death is also absence, too much space, space shaped like the person who stopped breathing, slowly, or suddenly, but all of a sudden, is nonetheless gone.
Things to know about Grief:
5. It may not look like you expect it to.
6. And it may look exactly like others expect it to.
7. That it might not hit you till a year after the loss. Or forty years.
8. That you will cry. And cry a lot. Heaving, sobbing, snotty, chest-aching tears.
9. That you will not cry. At times when you think you should cry. You might laugh instead. You might be angry. You will feel confused when you stop to think about it.
It’s all good.
Know this too:
10. That it will come and go like intense waves. The upsurge will feel unbearable. It will also hit you suddenly, even though all the signs were there leading up to the breaking point. The valley of the wave will surprise you just as much. Times of numbness, of aching joy, of a flattening. Times of feeling like all is well even when it is, and it isn’t.
11. It will never look and feel exactly like you think it will. Accept that. Also accept that it will take far more time to grieve than we have been led to believe. Accept that too.
12. Find ways to honour your sadness, your pain, the discomfort in the grieving.
13. Allow yourself to enjoy the pleasures that come too – moments of wild laughter, dancing, joy. Bubbles and bubbles of joy, for you will have those too.
14. Create the kinds of rituals and ceremonies that soothe your soul. Do not explain yourself to others, your grief needs no guardian but you, and how you grieve is how you grieve.
15. Because many people will feel so deeply uncomfortable about your loss that they will avoid you. Or they will put their foot in their mouths. Or they will judge you as not grieving appropriately.
16. People will feel so deeply uncomfortable about your grief and pain that they will be scared. They won’t know what to say. And, you won’t know what to say in return.
17. Yes. It’s okay to feel hurt and angry about this. But, this too – be kind to them. They don’t know how to face their own fears around death, loss and grief. Your pain reminds them of this, and this is sometimes too hard for them to bear. Be kind because at some point, they will understand.
18. And do accept help. Accept love. Accept support. Use the services of your local hospice – haven of the kindest most lively and caring people. People who get it.
19. Just be. Let your feelings be. Let your grief be. Let it all just be, so it can flow through, and out, and make space for your beauty, your joy, and for you to just be.
20. Until it’s your time to go, and for others to grieve you too.