by Joan Tessier
People and pets die all the time. I know that. I grew up on a farm where our cats and dogs, even horses, died and others took their place many times over. In my younger years I accompanied my parents to many funerals.
When it’s your own parents and a special dog all at once, though, it really hits hard! At least that’s what I discovered in 2001. Our son’s gorgeous golden greyhound was hit by a vehicle and had to be put down. That was in January.
My dad, a strong farmer who had hardly ever been sick in his life, had been diagnosed with cancer the previous November. In January he spent most of the month in the hospital with pneumonia. Not quite a week after he came home, Mom collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. Ten days later, she died! That was February.
Dad just wanted to die after that and two and a half months later, in early May, he did. Now both parents were gone in such a short time! Deep pain filled me. I grieved deeply.
I discovered at that time that we are not taught how to grieve. It happens to all of us sooner or later, but we are never actually taught how to get through it. And we must go through it. There is no going around or under or over, only through.
I had to figure out my own way through the grief. I cried. A lot. I discovered that if I took about half an hour every morning to be with the pain, letting the tears stream down my face, I was okay for the rest of the day.
The days that I didn’t take that time, I would burst into tears at the most inappropriate times over the stupidest things or for no apparent reason at all. Like standing in line at the grocery store. Or seeing someone walking their dog.
During that half hour each morning, I would also journal. I don’t mean writing down all that had happened the day before, what the weather was like, and such. I mean stream of consciousness writing where you don’t think about what you are going to write. You don’t worry about spelling or even sentences. You simply put pen to paper and write. Almost always I was amazed at what came out. I would start with the pain and inevitably somehow end up with that great Universal LOVE. Every time.
I call this intentionally taking time to be with grief, “actively grieving.” It is taking definite steps in whatever form works best for you to move you along the journey of grief.
There are many ways to do this active grieving. I chose to mostly read and write, but you can also colour or paint your way through grief. You can simply sit with the pain and feel all your feelings one at a time. You can dance your way through grief. You can make a collage about your loved one or about your grief. Do whatever feels right for you. It may be that you need to change it up every now and then—write for a few days, then paint or draw, then just sit with it. Do whatever works for you.
We often think of grief happening only after the death of a significant loved one, but any life-changing event, planned or unplanned, can cause us to grieve. For instance, you lose your job and the security that brings, you lose your house and all your possessions in a fire, a good friend moves away, a relationship ends and you find yourself divorced, you lose mobility and can’t do all the things you used to do.
Even events that we are anticipating with great excitement can lead us to grieve. My daughter, after two miscarriages, finally had a sweet baby girl. She was ecstatic! Her dream had come true! A few months later she started to feel depressed and didn’t know why. It made her feel ashamed that she would feel that way when she had this beautiful baby in her life. We talked about it and she realized that she was grieving her freedom. She couldn’t just do whatever she wanted, she had a helpless little one to think about now. So even though she was so excited about her dream coming true, there was also the feeling of grief for what she had lost to achieve that dream. Once she had figured out that she was grieving, she could then do some “active grieving” and work through it.
Many people have retired and moved off the farm where they have spent the major part of their life. They are excited to move and to start a new life without so much work and worry. After a while, however, they begin to miss their garden and their yard, and many things about their life in the country. They are grieving, and once they recognize that, they can do some “active grieving” and work through it.
Grief happens a lot. Once we recognize it as grief, then we can do something about it. Knowing how to process grief by “actively grieving” allows us to move along on our journey and through the grief. Until the next time. Then we do it all over again.
Joan Tessier, mother, grandmother, and energy healer is a former pastor living in Fort Qu’Appelle, SK. She has authored several books and is now also sharing her wisdom through facilitating Life Transition programs. Her latest book is My Journey Through Grief, A Helpful Guide for YOUR Grief Journey. To order
a book or for more information, go to her website www.lifeshealingconnections.ca or email email@example.com. Check out her Facebook page www.facebook.com/lifeshealingconnections.