Rachel, are you over your loss?
For years, I have pondered the true meaning of that question. Why would someone who loves, cares or respects my wisdom ask that question? Clearly they have not experienced a significant loss because if they had that question would never be asked.
Twenty- three years ago my young husband passed away suddenly from arrhythmia leaving me with a 2 year-old daughter to raise. While our daughter is grown living in NYC, I am happily remarried, and my life has found a wonderful rhythm, I continue to grieve the loss of my young husband. Why wouldn’t I? I grieve that he did not have the opportunity to see our daughter grow up, I grieve that he was not able to experience life as I have and I grieve for his family and friends who were not able to embrace life’s events with Rod. Does that feeling ever go away? Should that feeling go away?
As a national speaker and author of grief-related topics, I am often asked during or after a presentation if the reason I continue working so closely supporting those in need is because I am “still” grieving the loss of my husband. I chuckle and then dive into my prepared response – “I grieve many aspects of my life including the loss of my youth, my ancestors, aspects of my career, friends who have moved, my daughter who is grown up – but mostly the loss of my first, real love.
According to The Grief Recovery Institute, “Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind. Of itself, grief is neither a pathological condition nor a personality disorder.” Also, they indicate “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”
With that said, my grief continues, although the severity of the pain subsides over time. As grievers, we logically find a way to embrace the challenges of the loss allowing us to continue to live life to it’s fullest. For me, I realized that my only way of surviving the loss was to maintain a relationship with Rod. As strange and unpractical as that sounds, it truly is easy and comforting. One effortless portion is that my daughter looks and behaves like Rod. In addition, we celebrate his birthday every year, remain close with his family and most importantly we “chat” with him regarding daily challenges. Okay, so maybe we make up his responses but we still include him in the discussions.
I am astute enough to know after all these years that the real question behind the question is that the inquirer may be fishing for advice of how to work through their own personal grief or how to help a friend or family member who is experiencing a substantial loss. For others, the inquiry may establish the emotional status of the griever. For example, many family members want you to “get over” your grief, as they believe it is the only way to move on. Let me be clear here – there is nothing to get over and to be moving on from – the loss will always be there.
As a griever, prepare your elevator speech of how to answer that question to avoid becoming defensive or becoming agitated by the person who is asking. If you prefer to engage in conversation, may I suggest you determine what triggered the question rather than the self-introspection of why someone would ask.
As a friend or family member, if you are fishing for a griever’s emotional status, ask the real question you want answered.
Rachel Kodanaz is an author, speaker and consultant who provides encouragement to those who are suffering a loss or setback. She is the author of Living with Loss, One Day at a Time.