It is very important to read about the expectations of those in mourning a loss. When we are not mourners, many of us don’t want the emotional challenge of being supportive of another who is grieving, yet we want to be supported when we ourselves are grieving. The piece below describes what mourners should be open to experiencing while they are grieving, which I should add is not necessarily a finite period of time.
I want to highlight one of his points, that a mourner is allowed to have normalcy in life. In other words, not every waking second need be filled with mourning one’s loss. In fact, according to most, if not all, grief therapists, constant mourning would be unhealthy and our bodies and spirits are intrinsically aware of it. As such, when we get “distracted” by the mundane, it is a way to allow for healthy grief.
Yes, you do have rights as a mourner. Use these to guide you through those difficult times of grief:
You have the right to grieve in your own way as long as you don’t ruin your life or others. Results or progress in grief are more important than style. It doesn’t matter if you are openly expressive or stoic in venting your grief emotions. You should be able to feel safe to acknowledge your feelings and to find a constructive, healthy release for the emotional tension within you.
You have the right to talk about your loved one whenever you feel like talking. Speaking about your loved one and saying his or her name out loud allows you to vent grief emotions. Talking about your loved one can bring you comfort or keep the memories of the person alive for you.
Don’t let the people around you dictate how you mourn. At the same time, remember that there are safe and unsafe places to openly mourn. There are also safe and unsafe people with whom you can express yourself. Choose your people and places wisely without stifling your grief.
Also keep in mind when you share about your loved one in front of others that they may have a different mourning style. Don’t be insulted if they choose not to join with you in the conversation or share about the loved one at that moment. You can sometimes cause other mourners unnecessary pain by trying to force them to mourn like you do.
You have the right to express your feelings. Your healthy grief is more important than the feelings or opinions of those who maybe do not understand how grief works or what you need. Supportive comforters listen without judging or giving unsolicited advice.
You have the right to remember and honor your loved one on a regular basis. You have an on-going need to remember your loved one in healthy and meaningful ways. This on-going need is not fully met in a one-time funeral or memorial. You can choose your rituals to meet this need to remember the loved one in light of your specific needs, beliefs and personality.
You have the right to be upset about normal, everyday problems. This means you are free to have a bad day or a bad moment and the world will not end. Feelings are fickle and change from one moment to the next. One moment you can be having the best day ever since the death. Then suddenly a memory or situation can send you as a mourner into what feels like the worst day or moment you have ever experienced.
Be patient with yourself when a bad moment or day happens. But please, never use your bad day or a bad moment as an excuse for hurting or mistreating others.
You have the right to question why the person died. Asking the “why” and “What if” questions is part of grief. We mourners are trying to make sense out of something that doesn’t make sense to us—the loss of a loved one. Just remember: there may not be any answers to these questions.
Once you have asked these initial questions, then you can move onto the more important question of “What now?” in your grief journey.
You have the right to ask God the hard questions. A review or evaluation of your belief system can be a natural part of your grief. Sometimes we determine that the rules in life are not what we thought they were.
Sometimes we determine that our vision of how God works in this world is not valid. Questioning God and our belief system is not a lack of faith. It is an opportunity to strengthen or correct what we believe to be the truths of life, dying, death and loss.
You have the right to occasional grief outbursts. In grief and in life, we describe our experiences as up’s and down’s. When you openly express your grief, you are not “losing it” or “falling to pieces.” You are expressing your feelings in a healing, healthy way. Having grief outbursts can be necessary and healthy.
You have the right to ask others for help. Most comforters may be completely clueless as to how to help us as mourners. If you don’t let others know what you want, you probably will not get what you need. Remember that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Requesting help is a sign of being healthy and realizing that you can mourn better with the assistance of caring, compassionate people around you.
From (c) 2011, Larry M. Barber, LPC-S, CT in “Love Never Dies: Embracing Grief with Hope and Promise” Available on http://grief-works.org/book.php. Also available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstore. Available now for Nook and Kindle.