These are my musings and observations on my daily life, loves and the laughter that are all a part of my experience of living now in the shires of England.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Letter from God ... on living with grief

Here is a letter I wish I'd received earlier in my life. But I'm glad I have it now, and I'm glad that I can share it with you ...

My dear child,

Let me start by saying I love you. I know that at the moment you may not understand what love is all about because you are grieving. I also know that you may not want to hear anything that I have to say right now because all you know is intense pain. That’s your reality at this moment. I understand that. Nevertheless, I am writing this letter to you because I think that you may find it helpful one day when you can read it. You will know when that time is. I believe in your abilities. I think you are still in shock and need to rest while you think about what has happened.

You have experienced a loss. It’s very real to you. So I won’t tell you that it’s all going to be better on a particular day at a particular time because this journey of grief is personal to you. You alone will know when the time is ... different. Different to the time that you are in now. Different to the pain that you feel now. Different to everything that you understand right now. Sometimes I think that you think that it’s too hard to think. You are right. Everything is hard when you are grieving. Waking up is hard, eating is hard, bathing is hard, even smiling with people is hard. Thinking is the hardest part of all. I can see that. It’s why I see that you distract yourself from having to think. I see that it hurts. I know why you busy yourself with so many activities. I also know why you sit still for hours on end without moving. You feel alone. Grief makes you lonely.

Your grief is yours alone. Nobody can share the grief that you have. It’s only yours. That’s why you alone will know when the journey of your grief is another part of the journey of your life. Others around you will be experiencing this loss in a totally different way, and that’s alright – that’s their journey. All I expect you to do is feel your way through the darkness of this pain and know that it will get light again someday.  I don’t expect you to believe anything I say, actually, I don’t expect that you can really believe that I am real.
After all, the person that you are grieving for was far more real to you than I ever was. That’s OK. I understand. Really I do. They were another expression of My love to you.

Does that sound confusing? I’m sure many things do confuse you right now. Simple things that made sense before this loss are now complicated mazes of utter confusion and bewilderment in your days. Nothing seems to fit into place any more. I understand that. It’s as if the world has shifted on its axis and will never be righted again, and for you, I know you believe that is true at times. Maybe you don’t want things to be right again because you may believe that somehow that will make a mockery of your grief. Trust me, it won’t. It will be OK to live life to the full again, to love again and even to be happy. However, I know that grief is often like walking in fog. There seems to be no way out, and at some moments I know that you don’t want to leave the fog. The clarity outside of your current grief existence can be too stark to handle; it will, however, become clearer in time. You may even surprise yourself in the future as you embrace life with gusto.

How you get from here to there is not clear for you, but it can happen.

Some things will never be clear to you – not because you are incapable of understanding them, but because they are bigger than just you and your place in the world. Those things are for Me to understand and take care of. Trust Me. I hope that one day you can and will. I’ll always be here for you. Always. Even when you don’t want to know Me.

That probably sounds so unbelievable right at this moment when the person you always wanted to be with you is no longer there. I’m sorry that you feel sad about that. It was, however, their time to go to sleep. It will never seem like there was enough time for you to be together. That’s another thing you have to trust Me on. I do know the best timings for each life. Partings invariably cause pain. The pain that people feel is not something that makes anyone happy. Especially Me.

One of the most popular questions that I hear is, “Why?” I answer them all, but sometimes people don’t listen to Me. I know that sometimes they can’t listen to Me. Because the pain of loss, especially fresh loss, makes all the senses numb. This may surprise you, but that’s the way I designed it.

Not so that you can feel pain. No, that was never My intention. I designed the sensation of loss so that you could remember love. That’s what this is all about. Love: closeness and connections. Grieving is natural. Loving is natural. They are linked throughout eternity.

I have lost Someone close to Me as well. However, He’s back now. We have been reunited. But that’s another story ... you can look it up if you want to, it’s in another letter I’ve sent to the world: the Bible. (This may be one of the parts that you’ll throw your hands up in disbelief at, but that’s OK. I understand. You may even rip this letter up and burn it, or throw it away, but that’s OK too. I’ll send these thoughts to you again, maybe in a different way. Somehow I’ll keep letting you know that I love you and that it’ll all be alright soon ... because I really do love you and I know what you’re going through. I want you to know that how you feel really matters to Me. It’s all about love.)

As I was saying, love is usually at the centre of grief. That’s why it’s so confusing to you at times. One day I know that you will accept your loss, and even understand it. That may not be today, but it will come.
It may surprise you to know that what you are feeling is natural. Yes, that rollercoaster of emotions that you can go through in the fraction of a moment is perfectly normal. I know that you feel angry at times, especially when the reality of what’s happened hits you fresh in the heart again and you are in shock just like when they first died.

Like the hedgehog I see you put your spikes out to protect your soft centre. You’re doing well. Your heart is hurting. It’s a natural reaction.

You know, some people find that at times like this, at times of fresh loss, they will protect themselves – especially their hearts – by detaching from everyone and everything around them. It’s one way through the heavy pain. Cutting loose can work wonders.

Other people have been known to numb themselves to reality by surrounding themselves with crowds of people so they never have to be alone. Some of these connections are never meant to last. I have seen people behave like butterflies in the summer when they are grieving – they flit from person to person, from group to group, from high to low, as if they were searching for that elusive nectar in a particular flower. Their sadness is as deep as any I have known. They avoid reality and find temporary comfort in anonymity. What sometimes happens is that as soon as someone starts to get close to them, they will detach and move away. It’s their own path through grief, it’s one that no-one wants to take but I know someone always does.
When a big link to your past is taken away – and I know that sometimes you may feel like it was taken and not just slipped away – I see that all you think you are left to live with is sadness.

Sadness is a part of the grief, as I have said you feel sad because the loss is linked to the love you had for that person. That’s a marvellous thing. You may be thinking, “How can sadness be marvellous?” That’s a good question. I’ll try to answer it, but I don’t expect you to believe Me at all, especially straight away.
The reason I don’t expect you to believe me? Well, I know that some days, some moments, some long hours when you are alone with your thoughts, when all the distractions have ceased to block out your feelings, at those times you may think that the world is just an awful place and you just wish everyone would acknowledge it and accept that we are surrounded by unkindness.

I’m not saying that that is not true. There is unkindness and awfulness in the world, but you are not yearning the loss of those things, you are keenly feeling the loss of a special love. That person was specially chosen for you, as you were specially chosen for them. You both had a connection that no one else in the world had, and it’s for that reason that you mourn their loss. They were your connection to your joint past. They still are – even though they are not living and breathing beside you right now. You see, grief is really personal. Grief is also universal. Paradoxically grief is the most private feeling as well as the most public expression.
I want you to remember this: nobody has an obligation to love you. And vice versa. Not even parents and children. Not partners or friends. No human grouping must love any other – but it changes worlds when they do. Love is a choice. Whereas loss appears to be forced on you. Nobody wants it yet everybody has to feel it as it’s a part of the life and death cycle of existence.

Families that suffer the loss of a parent, child, or sibling often have the widest range of grief experiences ever known. Not one of them is the same. It’s a private as well as a shared loss. It’s familiar familial grief and private secret sorrow.

One of the things that I find surprises people most is when they realise that they can’t control grief.

This is especially hard for those who are used to controlling every aspect of their lives – well, trying to at least. The illusion of control is shattered forever when grief breaks through your heart. Suddenly you know that there is nothing you can do to harness those feelings. They surface when and where they want to. Sometimes I know that you feel embarrassed to share the emotions that grief throws out of you, so you keep both a physical and emotional distance from people.

I know that you are trying to protect them from yourself, and they are, in their way, trying to help you but you frequently think they forget your pain. Some of them do, but many don’t. They all have their own pains to deal with. It’s sad to see how many people are walking around with their emotions buttoned up from the inside: nobody is allowed access to the rawness of their hurt. That’s why it continues to sting at your heart and mind. It’s like the unexpected left hook to your head, it knocks you flying ... and often crying. And, as you are reeling from the blow, you realise that you have no idea how it broke through your defences.

When you are so uneasy with your emotional shows I think it makes sense to you to remain isolated from people. For some fresh grievers this means being the life and soul of the party. This means living right to the edge of total exhaustion so that sleep comes quickly and easily every night. Being isolated in public is just as hard to achieve as being isolated in private. They both require lots of effort to achieve. It’s the effort that can be so appealing when battling with grief: it keeps you busy. This means never having a moment to think or remember the loss because feeling the hundreds of sharp knives that the pain to your heart brings each time you remember is just too much to bear. Keeping these emotions all zipped up works for a while but it’s the nature of zips that there are sections that interlock and connect with another part. That’s what is probably best for you right now – connecting in a real way with others. Connecting with life beyond yourself.

You may choose to connect with your family, your friends, strangers, lovers, casual acquaintances, animals, nature or any number of things. However you do it, you are the only one who can unzip the protective cloak around yourself. You can only do this in your own time. I know that. That’s why you have these emotions, so you know when to move between stages of guilt, between feelings of shock, acceptance, anger, denial and depression.

In grief I have seen that many people actively seek isolation because the fear of dependence on someone else reminds them of their connection and dependence of a person who has just died, and it is far too frightening to want to repeat. It’s a normal reaction. In grief the everyday resilience seems to disappear.
Life is fragile like thin ice. As a recently bereaved person you may need time to look at life. The whole of life. Death really brings life into focus. It’s often when somebody has died that others take time – in isolation – to decide if they want to reduce their commitment and connection to general life or to broaden it.

The relationship that you are grieving has changed with your loved one’s death and all other relationships in your life will change because of that. It’s OK. It’s normal. This is a time that you may take to reassess all your connections and look at what relationships you consider special, what friendships stand the ‘test’ of continual sadness. I’ve seen people isolating themselves in their thoughts and actions because the death of a loved one can feel like a rejection. It isn’t, but I understand the need to protect yourself from further possible rejections. I just wanted to let you know that you may feel that people around you will think that you are a nuisance – that’s usually what you are thinking about yourself, not what they are thinking about you. They may just want to love you in the best way they can. It’s difficult for everyone to understand someone else’s grief. You all have to love each other through the pain. I know you can’t do any differently to what you are doing right now, and that’s OK. Those people around you are also doing the best they can – for themselves and for you. You are all experiencing grief.

Some people anticipate grief: they know it’s coming and because of the nature of illness they have time to prepare. Or so they think. When the actual loss and separation occurs it doesn’t matter how much preparation has been done the new grief that sits on your shoulders banishes any thoughts of preparation for that moment that begins the spiral into grief. It’s the finality of death that is the worst for you I think. The absence of your loved one is suddenly everywhere. Your new thoughts, actions, and dreams are all off limits to them. You can no longer share your life with them, nor share any aspect of theirs. The disconnection is total.

Grief is like a thick blanket of snow. It keeps falling even when the emotional forecasters predict a change in outlook. It covers everything it touches and makes it impossible to decipher the landscape before you. It’s as far as your eye can see and deeper that your feet can touch. Grief is like trudging through unchartered geography not knowing where you are going, and sometimes, not even caring where you are going.
Some people have wanted to be consumed by their grief, and they are. They lie down in the snow and wait for it to cover them completely. Most snow melts, it may become ice or water, but it often changes and then you have to negotiate a different means to get through it. Thus it is with grief. It changes as time progresses. It does not always get lighter. It’s like a fairground ride: there are highs and lows on this journey. All I can say is that you should hold on. Hold on to that memory of love. Hold on to that link to the past that may not be living and breathing as a person anymore, but was real and always will be real as long as you keep them in your heart and mind and then you can pass that legacy of love forwards in the life you live.

Grief is sometimes like putting a saddle on a wild Mustang horse. It’s not a natural fit for the horse, but once captured by it, there is no choice but to wear it. People react like the Mustangs when grief settles on them, they fight it – or they take flight from it.

Like a saddled Mustang personal grief is difficult to get hold of, to control. However, as you grieve it’s very important to remember why you are grieving. Love is usually the reason. Holding on to the love rather than the grief is a way to move back into life. You see, grief sometimes makes you run away from daily life. Everything can seem pointless and meaningless in the face of your own loss. People around you can seem occupied with banal issues when your heart is silently fracturing into tiny splinters right in front of them. I have seen a lot of anger at times like this. It’s always hard to remember that they are doing their best because they are not listening to the soundtrack in your head – they don’t know what you are thinking or feeling; especially when you find it so difficult to share any of those feelings with them.

One of the things I’ve found that helps with ‘managing’ grieving is to remember the wonderful times with the person you’ve lost as well as to remember the not-so-good times. Remember the full humanity of the person, and the full humanity of yourself. Neither of you are without fault yet you were perfect for each other just as you were. That’s the beautiful truth of love – it is still there despite your obvious failings. In fact, it’s because you recognise the reality of an imperfect existence in each other that the love is deep. Love always exists beyond life. It’s a sustaining force.

Keeping the memory real will really help you to grieve, live and love at the same time. This may take a long time, but it can happen. Remember, your timeline for grieving will never match with anyone else’s because you grief is so unlike anyone else’s. Just like your eyes, your hair, your fingerprints, so it is with your grief: it’s unique to you.

Grief is a big part of life. As you learn to understand your own grief – especially around bereavement – I think you’ll improve your ability to adapt to those losses that are a part of everyday life. It’s never easy, it can’t be really because it is, after all a loss of someone or something you’ve had in your life that has deep meaning. You may not believe Me now, but you can live with your grief. Just remember to balance your sadness with the memories of love and connectivity that you’ve had. 

Before I forget, I think I should mention that sometimes you may feel guilty when you are grieving. And afraid. That’s OK too. Whenever you can please let yourself go on your emotional journey through these basic feelings. Although you cannot go back to change anything you can go forward and make things different, hopefully better, for those you meet in your life. I hope that you will learn how to keep loving and learn not to be afraid of love. It’s true that when you love you open yourself up to the possibility of loss, but that’s not a good reason to avoid and experience more deep love. You deserve more love. You are beautiful and marvellous after all. That reminds me of the question about sadness being marvellous. To answer that I will remind you that gold is never found on mountaintops. You have to dig for it. Love is like gold and the sadness of grief is like the process of digging to rediscover the vein similar to the one that you’d experienced before. You may think marvellous is a peculiar way to describe sadness, but when it brings you back to love it has to be seen as wonderful. Just like you.

You are well equipped to make it through the sadness that shrouds you from every corner of your day. One day you will be able to accept that even though you never knew everything about your loved one you still had a close relationship of deep and lasting value. One day you’ll see this journey of your grief for yourself (from outside of the grief you are currently inhabiting) and you may even smile and share your path with another wounded hearted soul. I know that it hurts, grief always hurts.

I know that you will get through this pain and sadness.

I’m sorry that you are sad. But I’ll finish here by saying I love you. I know that at the moment you may not want to understand or accept any love at all but My love is always here for you.


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