I remember some years back being stuck in a lift with a small group of people. The lift suddenly broke down between floors, but just short of a floor, it’s doors opened about twelve inches. Through the gap we could see people walking, their feet level with our heads. Apart from calling the in-house mechanics people on the landing soon started to see what had happened and began talking to us.
When I say talking to us; few were actually of any constructive use with words of comfort. Indeed many made matters worse by reminding us just how bad our predicament was and how they couldn’t cope. With comments such as ‘must be so hot in there, breathing must be difficult, bet you are scared…’ I could go on but I won’t.
Why am I sharing this mini horror story??? Well going through bereavement can be just like that lift experience, in that one is going through the worst possible experience, and feeling trapped with no escape from our pain. Those closest to us are going through it too and seemingly not coping anywhere near as well as we are and eventually we cannot support each other…like the lift there is only just so much oxygen! However, people ‘on the outside’ who maybe friends or associates may be surprisingly more supportive and some may be of no use at all. It’s a maze of emotions and a nightmare but we will find who our true friends are and what the power of love can do.
Reverting to the lift story; one business man kept his overcoat buttoned up, hat firmly on his head and his briefcase huddled tightly to his chest, whilst the rest of us began peeling off layers trying to keep cool emotionally and physically…it was stifling. We were in there for well over an hour and a half. As an observer of life it was interesting to see how some people helped themselves and helped others by keeping spirits up.
In bereavement this happens too; sometimes those that are in the most pain (determined by the closeness of their relationship with the deceased) appear to be coping well and also comforting those that are not. To be generous of heart is an amazing gift but not at the cost of one’s own long term health. I remember Oprah Winfrey famously saying in a plane the safety instructions say ‘use the oxygen mask yourself first before helping others;’
Grief is not a competition and there is no right or wrong way, but those that opt for living in the drama at the cost of those around really do not help themselves or those with genuine grief who may be suffering silently. We saw such a lot of hysteria around the passing of princess Diana and colleagues and I have discussed how unhealthy this was.
It also really angers me when others tell somebody how they should be acting and when and how they ‘should be over it’. We all cope in our own way as everybody’s journey is different. In life there is no doubt that gravitating towards those that have a positive outlook will help us through our most difficult times.
Being encouraged to go on living a fulfilled life albeit slowly returning to some kind of normality won’t fill an unbearable void left when we lose a loved one but it will help ease our pain and set us on the slow road to acceptance.
As I advised a family member this week; there is no short cut through bereavement we have to get through it as best we can and each process brings its own challenges, including unexplained feelings of guilt and anger. It is also a time when if one has faith it will be questioned and those that have ‘found religion’ may offend those that haven’t or really don’t want to. As with recovering from serious illness bereavement will make some of us really take stock of our lives and make drastic changes and/or accept amazing challenges.
Live, laugh and love and face a day at a time as really that is all any of us can do.