Recently in one of my caregivers’ support groups, I was asked by of the members if I could give her recommendations on books she could read on how to cope with/get over the intense grief she is still experiencing several months after the death of her grandmother (who had dementia).
My response was that I didn’t know that a book would help her because grief and the grieving process is unique to each of us, especially in the case of dementias because we lose our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s twice: first while they’re still living and then again when they die.
Grief is sometimes very complicated. We all grieve differently, based on our relationships, our personalities, our temperaments, and our experiences in life.
The reality is that no two people ever grieve exactly the same way.
And this is one of those areas of life where people can cause a lot of irreparable damage – and layer even more pain on top of the pain of grieving – by imposing their ideas about grieving (how long, how much, how deeply, etc.) onto those grieving in the form of criticism for and impatience with the process as it unfolds.
None of us can get inside the grief of another human being. We’re not them. We haven’t walked in their shoes. We don’t know everything about them and we don’t know everything they know.
To assume that we do and to turn those assumptions into lectures about how we have been where they have been and we know what they’re going through and we know they’re not “doing it” right is the height of ignorance and arrogance.
Having had several friends in the last couple of months lose a parent and walking through the valley of the shadow of impending death with someone else who is losing a parent right now has brought the grieving process, which I’m still in to one degree or another with both of my parents, and its winding road that it is continuing to carve out in my life, back to the forefront of my mind.
The reality is that grief never really leaves us (it changes over time and it changes us over time, but it also comes right back in full force at you in the oddest moments even after a lot of time has passed).
In the end, grief is the price of love. It’s a high price, but I know that none of us would ever choose not to pay it.
I can’t imagine not having ever had my parents in my life, so even though their deaths have left gaping, sometimes acutely oozing, sometimes intensely aching holes in my heart that will never be repaired in this life, having them both for as long as I was blessed to have them makes this worth it.
Even in those moments when the pain is so strong that I can’t remember it for that instance.
So, for all of us who are somewhere on that continuum of the grieving process, know that grief after death means we loved in life. It doesn’t have a playbook nor does it have a time limit. It will get easier to do over time, but it will be a constant companion for the rest of our lives.
And, when it’s all said and done, that is a very, very good thing. Never forget that.