Sickness affects more than just the person that has become sick. Whether it be cancer, breathing disorders, kidney disease, diabetes or heart related issue, the living still grieve.
Grieving is a natural response to life ending news. It’s how our mind processes the finality of life. But professionals only want to talk about grief after a death. It’s considered impolite to discuss while our love one is still alive. But, this world is backward. We don’t begin grieving after a death, it starts with sickness.
It starts with a regular visit or phone call. Your loved one gives you bad news. Maybe they are sharing an update from a recent doctor visit. Maybe they have saved this news for the right time. Perhaps they just found out. They tell you they are sick and whether it is treatable. Then they tell you if they are willing to take any treatments.
What happens at that moment? You begin to grieve.
Experts will tell you that grief has “stages”. They’ve even labeled them for convenience. (Yes, that’s sarcasm.) Here’s the stages most commonly referred to by those experts:
These “experts” save these stages and progression of emotions for after death. So, that’s all according to those who went to school to explain the way people think (at a bargain price of only $175 per hour). These fine folks carrying maybe $100,000 in school debt, are the renowned know-it-all.
I don’t have a high opinion of these folks after I literally went through a dozen of these experts when I lost my husband 9 years ago. Most of them all asked me the same question: “what do you think…?”
The Reality of Grief
The mind will begin to grieve immediately. Memories will rush through your head and you will cry. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to seek comfort.
You will be selfish. We all have some selfishness in us and some of us have more control over it than others. If I just made you mad, keep reading. It just means this applies to you. You’re grieving. You are forgiven.
You will begin to wonder what will you do without this person? How will you go on? How will your life be different?
Don’t worry about feeling selfish. Most people hold this in the back of their mind even when they move to another stage while grieving. It’s a completely natural reaction to a situation forced on a person permanently (like sickness or death).
As you start cruising through the stages of grief, your mind will always lead you to ask selfish questions. Examples could include:
- Why is this happening to me? (This is normal. Although you’re not the one sick or dying.)
- Could I have done something different? (The answer is usually no.)
- I didn’t get enough time. Why? Or I should have spent more time with him/her. (Maybe this is true. If it is, don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on it.) Soak in all the time you have left and don’t let it slip away with anyone else you love!
- What will I do without him/her?
- How am I going to afford the bills now?
- What will the kids do? Will they be okay?
- What is going to happen to all their stuff?
- Does he or she know how much I love them?
- Will he or she miss me?
- Why isn’t anyone else here? Why am I the only one staying here to comfort him or her? Doesn’t everyone else love her or him like I do?
You are going to be super sensitive!
People you love or people who you know that love the sick/dying person are going to say something that makes you mad. It happens. These things that hurt your feelings are not intended to hurt you. If someone says something that you take offense to, try to remember that in this situation, people say things out of sadness, frustration, fear, or they just flat-out don’t know what to say! Ignorance or insensitivity to your particular feelings may not be the first thing on their mind. They may have been sitting in silence, twiddling their thumbs trying to figure out what to say and then accidentally, the wrong thing comes out.
It’s important also to remember that sometimes the right thing comes out of their mouth but they say it the wrong way. This is where forgiveness plays a huge part in the grieving process. We’ll talk about forgiveness later.
True Colors Surface
Grief can bring out the best in people and it can also bring out the worst. It can tear a family a part and it can bring them closer together. The true nature of a personality will surface during times like this.
Friends and family members that may normally thought of as the faith, dependable, always-there may suddenly be the rarely seen. They may be infrequent in visiting and hard to reach on the phone.
On the other hand, the opposite can be true. The people who were almost strangers may pop in and offer their time, resources, abilities and skills. These estranged folks may be regular visitors and play a huge role in support and financially assist as well.
When other’s emotional support is needed and it doesn’t come when you think it should, try not to be judgemental until you have the whole story. You will find yourself wearing your heart on your sleeve and this isn’t the time where everyone realizes how much they are really needed.
Times Slows Down
If there’s a clock in the room you’ll notice at some point times has slowed down. Time will slow to a crawl and at some point seem to stop. You’ll catch yourself watching the clock, waiting for the minute hand to move. If you’re blessed to have a second-hand to stare at, it will slowly tick so you know this is a reality. The minute hand slows down and is almost laboriously moved. The hour hand will appear frozen. Questioning reality will set in as you sit by the bedside of the sick loved one.
When you realize you’re in this time quandary, you may notice your own hands. Dry and dehydrated from soap and hand sanitizer, questioning reality may bring your mind back to more selfish thoughts.
The mind can only process the same memories so many times before It begins to just empty and zone out. You may wonder what you are doing or why you’re doing this to yourself. Others may tell you to go home, rest, or that you look bad.
Red is Everywhere!
You may not realize at first, but you may find yourself surrounded by red cautions, warnings, signs and equipment labeled combustible. Each of these devices represent how inevitable and final death is. It’s sad, but I’ve been in this situation so many times, I use to hate red. It symbolized death to me for most of my life. As I’ve aged, I now see them as a sign of renewal. A time when the soul will be released to the Father in Heaven.
One more thing about Grieving the Living … It’s perfectly normal to do!
With much love,