Galactic Gulfs

This was a phrase I read in a Sydney paper to describe one man’s experience of describing his grief following the death of his wife.

Such an interpersonal gulf also applies to many of you as you re-enter your various worlds following the death of your child.

I would argue that is is probably true for families attempting to explain a cancer diagnosis and the treatment experience to their wider world.

In my conversations with palliative and bereaved families, one of the issues that surface frequently is how difficult it can sometimes be to adequately communicate what it is like to be a grieving parent to others.  This is equally true for surviving siblings.

Grief is, for many an overwhelmingly gut-wrenching experience at times…a bit like a being swamped by an emotional tsunami.  When as humans we experience such heartache, we need that heartache to be heard and understood…or at the very least tolerated for what it is.  What we don’t need is silence, irritation, discomfit or mindless platitudes.

Many of you will find yourselves in the position of trying to communicate to extended family or friends what it is like to be heartbroken and to be faced with the challenges of rebuilding our lives.

I was reminded of a piece sent to me a while ago from a mother who had had this type of experience and what she met was advice that she “not do this to her self”, that she should “get on with her life” and to “focus on the surviving children”.

Needless to say, this was not helpful at the time and only served to add to her already existing distress by making her feel even lonelier and more cut off from the rest of the world.  That sense of being ‘different’, of feeling disconnected from the ease of mutual understanding and communication is an experience that many can identify with.

In her distress, she spent time on the internet, exploring some grief websites and found the following lines which gave her comfort at that time.  She thought it might strike the right chord with others and so suggested that it be included.  I know many will resonate with the words.

  • Please don’t ask me if I am over it yet.
  • I will never get over it.
  • Please don’t tell me she (he) is in a better place.
  • She’s (he’s) not here with me.
  • Please don’t say she (he) isn’t suffering any more.
  • I haven’t come to terms with why she (he) had to suffer at all.
  • Please don’t tell me how you feel.
  • Unless you have lost a child the same way.
  • Please don’t ask me if I feel better.
  • Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.
  • Please don’t tell me at least you had her (him) for so many years.
  • What year would you like your loved one to die.
  • Please don’t tell me God never gives more than we can bear.
  • Please just say you are sorry.
  • Please just say you remember my loved one if you do.
  • Please mention my loved one’s name.
  • Please be patient with me when I am sad.
  • Please just let me cry.

Many of us could add many more to the list of do’s and don’ts.

These words, I think, illustrate three very important features of bereavement.

First, that it is not something that people recover from.

Grieving for someone we love ends when we too finally die.

It is a sorrow that is carried as part of oneself, a sorrow that underscores the fragility and preciousness of life and frequently influences in a myriad of ways, the way bereaved people continue into their tomorrows.

It is a process of becoming more familiar with a world that is profoundly changed and moving to a place where, hopefully, the heartache is carried more easily and in a way that permits enjoyment of life again.

Secondly, it describes the fact that while people die…our relationship with them does not.  Children who have died continue to be a part of you and to be part of your lives and remain, someone that you will want to talk about, whose story you will continue to want to share with others.

And thirdly, that communication with the broader social world in which you live can be very challenging at times (the galactic gulf), that language can be limited and that the receptivity and capacity to appropriately respond to another’s pain varies greatly.

Bridging the divide between the world that was and the world that will be, requires the bereaved to re-enter their social worlds – reconnecting with family and friends, developing new relationships perhaps, sometimes distancing or severing some social connections.

Supportive social networks are important to us all.  They are associated with positive mental health and a capacity to manage life crises.  Social support has been defined as feedback from others that one is loved and cared for, esteemed and valued and part of a network of satisfying communications.  Basically, we cope more effectively if we find the social support we need.

For bereaved parents, this will require amongst other things, being able to truthfully acknowledge thoughts and feelings , opportunities to have their changed selves acknowledged and accepted and the freedom to speak freely about ALL their children, both living and deceased.

The death of a child is an unusual event in the society in which we now live and communities are not always familiar with how to respond to the bereaved.

The culture of response tends still to lean towards notions of recovery and closure and a return to normal.  Nothing could be further from the truth, as is so beautifully expressed above.

Bridging the gulf may be difficult but necessary as you re-enter your social worlds, reweaving the web of your daily lives and reestablishing interdependent connections.  This can be comforting and reassuring as it may relieve the isolation of grief…but as observed in the poem, we cannot predict the responses of others and their responses are not within our control and can add to distress.

However, as humans,  we jointly weave our social webs.  By challenging or simply not accepting the platitudes or misguided utterances and providing cues as to “how it really is” we play a role in improving conversations and interactions about love and loss and life after.

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Photo by Marta Branco on Pexels.com

 

with thanks to Vera Russell Palliative Care/Bereavement Counsellor, a treasured colleague and friend.

 

Building a field of flowers…

Rather than focusing on right and wrong, try to think in terms of creating something new from a pollination of ideas. Consider each mind as a flower, which goes through its own cycles of growth, budding, bloom and decay.

Somewhere along the path, the cerebral flower of the mind comes into full bloom, and through dialogue with others, a wondrous process of cross-pollination with other mind-flowers can begin.

Before you know it, new flowers with new colours, patterns, and shapes begin to emerge everywhere; idea-flowers that have never existed before, not even in our wildest imagination.

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Photo by Mina-Marie Michell on Pexels.com

This process exposes the genius of natural designs and laws which are far beyond our weak intellect’s comprehension. What is essential is that we come together as a community and communicate, and do so as respectfully as possible.

The change will emerge on its own and will carry the unique imprints of each participant forward into the mysterious creation of that which is beyond imagination — a new world.

Bryant McGill

 

How fear blocks creativity

 

When we feel safe, our creativity unfolds like a beautiful flower.
To understand how fear blocks creativity, take a moment to imagine yourself telling a story. First, imagine telling the story to someone you love and who loves you. You probably feel warmth and energy as you fill in the details of your tale to your friend’s delight. Now, imagine telling the same story to someone who, for whatever reason, makes you uncomfortable. The wonderful twists and turns, the fine points and colorful images that unfolded in your mind for your friend probably won’t present themselves. Instead of warmth, energy, and creativity, you will probably feel opposite sensations and a desire to close down. When we feel unsafe, whether we fear being judged, disliked, or misunderstood, our creative flow stops. Alternately, when we feel safe, our creativity unfolds like a beautiful flower, without conscious effort.

Knowing this, we can maximize our creative potential by creating the conditions that inspire our creativity. In order to really be in the flow, we need to feel safe and unrestricted. However, achieving this is not as simple as avoiding people who make us feel uncomfortable. Sometimes we can be alone in a room and still feel totally blocked. When this happens, we know we have come up against elements in our own psyches that are making us feel fearful. Perhaps we are afraid that in expressing ourselves we will discover something we don’t want to know, or unleash emotions or ideas that we don’t want to be responsible for. Or maybe we’re afraid we’ll fail to produce something worthy.

When you’re up against fear, internal or external, ritual can be a powerful–and creative–antidote. Before you sit down to be creative, try casting a circle of protection around yourself. Visualize yourself inside a ring of light, protective fire, or angels. Imagine that this protective energy emanates unconditional love for you and wants to hear, see, and feel everything you have to express. Take a moment to bathe in the warmth of this feeling and then fearlessly surrender yourself to the power that flows through you.

BY MADISYN TAYLOR

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Photo by Bess Hamiti on Pexels.com

 

the heart of the matter

Shared at Su’s request, words to ponder. ❤  Andrew Codling

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

After spending some time with friends, I reflected upon the values that truly mean something.
” In the end, it is how generous you were with your heart, that matters.
One day, when all your earthly possessions have no use to you, you will reflect upon the life you led.
There are many paths to happiness, and the path you choose will be filled with distractions, like wealth, adoration, greed, envy, anger, the list is varied and long.
When you meet these distractions, do not feed too heartily from their plate, for they will never satisfy you, they will offer temporary relief to you, but you will be left hungry and wanting more.
You see, the distractions that truly fill you up, are not those that feed the mind, but are those that feed the soul, like love, compassion, kindness, humility and charity.
These are the attributes that you take with you on the great journey, and when the mirror of your soul reflects these back to you, you’ll feel pride in seeing these aspects of yourself reflected back to you.
It’s not wrong to submit to the material world, it’s necessary in order to survive, but it is right to find balance, and in doing so, we can feel truly fulfilled, and then we are better placed to serve not only others, but also ourselves, and with greater purpose.
To truly give of yourself, is to grow and nurture your own spirituality, and this we can do, irrespective of our means.
Because, in the end, it is how generous you were with your heart, that matters “

Finding grace, tact and empowerment

We have all had the experience where we have been annoyed, offended, hurt, saddened or angered by another. How can we handle the situation and ourselves so that we exercise, grace, tact, and possibly even advocate for change in the world?
Together, let’s explore some strategies which we can adopt to both heal our hearts and move forward in the best manner possible.
Judgment.
It is simply not necessary to introduce judgment into everything. To understand someone’s intention you’d have to fully understand them. How can we possibly know what is in the heart and mind of another? Many times, we and others act without forethought, without conscious intention. Sometimes, our emotions overtake us. A lot of the time, we barely even know ourselves! Broken people hurt other people. Can we really judge them for that?
If, for example, someone is ill, do we judge them for being ill? Do we hold their illness against them? No, of course not! It wasn’t that person’s choice to become ill.
By the same token, perhaps, that person we are so quick to judge hasn’t made a conscious decision to be where they are. Maybe, they themselves don’t even know how or why they ended up where they are. Can we blame people for not knowing what they don’t know?

Boundaries.
If you can’t handle yourself in the company of a person, then it is necessary for you to enact a boundary for the well-being of both yourself and that other person. If you can’t keep your emotions in check, it may be best to distance yourself until you have found some healing for yourself.
We want to spend time with people who motivate us to be our best selves, because we want to bring our best selves to the world.
We do not need to keep people who have harmed us in our lives. We can set boundaries. We can’t possibly have time and energy for all people anyway. We must, however, ensure that we make time for ourselves in our own lives, we must engage in self-care. Self-care is particularly important when we are hurting.
Vengeance.
We have all heard the saying that “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” and it is true: Hate breeds hate. Hate will not heal. It will not heal you, and it will not heal them.
If a person is broken, that person needs healing. They need your love more than they need your hate. Hate will not break a negative cycle, but love may make a difference. Even if you don’t know how to love a person, don’t treat them with hate. Treating them with hate chances them also losing the ability to love themselves.
People who don’t love themselves are often volatile and at risk of poor choices and behavior. Don’t make the problem worse. Don’t treat people the way they have treated you. Treat them the way you wish to be treated instead. Don’t become that which you hate.

Expectations.
Don’t give with expectation. Don’t help someone expecting them to return the favor. Don’t expect them to change. If you have helped leave it at that. Your intention was to help. Your intention is not the outcome.
You’ve done your part. More than that, you haven’t added to the problem. That’s quite something all in itself!
Compassion.
It is easy to love people who are easy to love. The real challenge is to love those who have hurt or harmed you. Love and compassion are not circumstantial. You don’t have to understand people in order to love them. You don’t even have to like them or agree with their actions.
Remember the human beneath. We do not know what may be tormenting a person’s soul.
You can love others with a compassionate heart. Never underestimate the power of kindness and compassion.
Forgiveness.
Don’t carry the darkness of hate in your heart. It will harm you. That anger will seep into every aspect of your life. It will taint everything.
Instead, work through your emotions. Find forgiveness and let go. Don’t hang on to things. Don’t bring the past into the present. When we bring the past with us, we diminish our presence in the moment.
Learn to let go. Forgiveness is for you, not them. Forgiveness does not mean you condone or agree with what someone has done. Don’t replay that which has hurt you over and over again. Don’t torment yourself further. You deserve peace.
Remember, you have the power to make a difference. Your very words and actions can effect change.

Don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution instead.  Be defined by love in all you say and do.

conifer daylight environment evergreen
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

Akiroq Brost – inspirational writer

 

A New Normal

When someone we love dearly dies, the world as it was has changed forever,  Effectively individuals and families have to re-learn and create a ‘new normal’.

The process is what we understand as grieving … To create a ‘new normal’ requires fully absorbing that the ‘old’ cannot be, experiencing whatever feelings and thoughts arise as a result and gradually becoming accustomed to a changed reality.

Grief is both a private, individual process and a social one in that it occurs within the context of family, community and the broader social world.

Initially, the rawness of grief is often responded to by others with care, sympathy and support.

This care and support for many starts to dwindle long before grieving individuals have found their feet in a world forever changed.   Grief increasingly becomes ‘invisible’ to others.

Many of the conversations I have with families focus on the difficulties experienced in communicating to others the depth of heartache and its impact on every aspect of life.

One mother once said to me that it might be easier to be a double amputee as there would be obvious physical evidence of a changed self and our changed relationship to the outside world.

Bereaved parents and bereaved siblings often look so normal on the outside.  They usually go back to routines of everyday life and appear to function quite well.

Words frequently are inadequate to express the impact of the death of a child.

Changes that emerge often take place over a more extended period of time and again can be challenging to explain to others.

The following captures so well the sometimes great distance between a private reality and its social perception…the gap between being and understood and communication as it sometimes can be between bereaved people and others.

Can you see the change in me?  It may not be so obvious to you.  I participate in family activities.  I attend family reunions.  I help plan holiday meals.  You tell me you’re glad to see that I don’t cry anymore.

But I do cry.  When everyone has gone – when it is safe – the tears fall.  I cry in privacy so my family won’t worry.  I cry until I am exhausted and can finally fall asleep.  I’m active at work.  I listen to my friends.  You tell me you admire my strength and my positive attitude.

But I’m not strong.  I feel that I have lost control, and I panic when I think about tomorrow …  next week … next month … next year.  I go about the routine of my day.  I complete tasks assigned to me.  I drink coffee and smile.  You tell me that you’re glad to see that I’m’over’ the death of my loved one.

But I am not over it.  IF I get over it, I will be the same as before my loved one died.   I will never be the same.  At times I think that I am beginning to heal, but the pain at losing someone I loved so much has left a permanent scar on my heart.   I visit my neighbours.  You tell me you’re glad to see I’m holding up so well.

But I am not holding up well.  Sometimes I want to lock the door and hide from the world.  I spend time with friends.  I appear calm and collected.  I smile when appropriate.  You tell me it’s good to see me back to my ‘old self.

But I will never be back to my ‘old’ self.

Death and grief have touched my life and like it or not I am changed forever.

lindsay-merlo

Grief……What is it?

I met recently with an old acquaintance who was bereaved.  She made the comment that she thought that she was ‘not grieving’.  When I asked what she meant by this, she replied that she had not begun to cry and was puzzled to find herself more angry than sad.  This conversation reminded me that we all have different perceptions of what grief is.  Such differences can make for misunderstandings of ourselves and others.

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Grief is a response, a reaction to loss.  As such, it is a resonable, natural and necessary part of dealing with changed circumstances.  It is unique, very varied, idiosyncratic and highly personal.  There is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Grieving styles even within families can be very different.

Grief is not solely the domain of a reaction to a death loss.  It occurs whenever one has to adjust to new demands where one perceives a loss.  So it could be in losing a pet, changing jobs, houses, losing a limb, or losing a job.  It does not matter it still has a component of grief.

Grief is influenced by a wide range of variables, for example:-

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Culture
  • Religious or philosophical beliefs
  • Individual personality
  • Previous life experience, in particular previous experience of loss
  • behaviour learned from one’s family  of origin
  • the availability, nature and quality of support and care
  • physical and emotional health
  • the nature of the relationship with the person who has died
  • the nature of the ‘event’
  • the meaning or lack of meaning that event has

Grief is a complex phenomenon, and we should rightly be wary of those who might want to make ‘one size fit all’ and offer overly simplistic notions of what happens to us when we are grieving or overly simple advice about what to do to feel better.

Furthermore, we experience grief along all domains of our being, physical, emotional, behavioural, psychological and spiritual.

Physical sensations may include butterflies in the stomach, breathlessness, tightness in the throat or chest, over-sensitivity to sound or light, muscle weakness, lethargy, dry mouth, palpitations or gastrointestinal disturbances.

Emotional responses may include sadness, anger, anxiety, guilt, shock and numbness, yearning, pining, loneliness or despair.

Psychological responses may include disbelief, confusion, memory loss, preoccupation, distraction or impaired cognitive processes such as decision making.

Behavioural reactions may include sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, absent- minded behaviour, lack of concentration, disturbing dreams, social withdrawal, frequent sighing, restless activity or crying, purposeless activity.

Spiritual responses could be questioning the existence of God, or your belief system, preoccupation with the afterlife, issues related to meaning and purpose.

The above list is by no means an exhaustive one but serves to illustrate the range of experiences that grieving people may encounter.

Many of the above experiences are mainly present in the early days, weeks and months and will naturally and gradually subside as we find out feet in a world forever changed.

Questions of meaning, purpose and identity may span many years.  This is often very common following the death of a child which so profoundly violates the natural order of things and may pose many questions about how the universe works.

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In the aftermath of a significant loss, we may feel frequently overwhelmed and lost.  The world has become a different place, and we no longer feel safe and secure.  The world is no longer predictable or reliable as it once may have been.  Beliefs and worldviews about fairness, justice and the world making sense in some organised way may be seriously challenged.

In a profound sense, while the acute, intense experience of grief will change and become more manageable, grieving continues to the end of our own lives.

We may rebuild life around the pain of the loss and engage with life but we never stop missing someone we love or when a child dies.

Grieving people need to have this complexity recognised and acknowledged, to be heard and understood in an empathetic and compassionate way that gives permission and time to grieve without judgement and in a way that is right for them.

A recurring theme I have observed in talking with grieving people is that too often this understanding is missing.  It is often said to me that ‘people don’t get it’.

It is a very difficult thing to wholly enter into another’s experience and difficult to find words to describe an experience that is so profound.  Sometimes it is only other parents who ‘understand’.

After the death of a child, re-entering your previous world may feel strange as you rebuild your life and relearn the changed world.  These factors add complexity to grief.  Many families at this time need also to deal with perhaps having had prolonged periods away from home, authorities never dealt with before, everyday routines have disrupted and life seems chaotic in the extreme.

Fatigue and stress are daily companions.

All of the above factors contribute to the ‘grief cocktail’ following the death of your child.  So, when you are given advice or information about grief and what you should/should not do, or be doing trust your instincts.   Do what is right for you, when you are ready.

If it makes sense to your head, heart and gut, give it a go.  If not, leave it alone.  It is important to note that the “time-frames” allowed to those who are grieving and rebuilding their lives is often disrepectively short.

Being a bereaved parent, sibling, or grandparent is not a club anyone chooses to join.

Experiencing the complexity of grief and the task of rebuilding and becoming accustomed to a life forever changed takes much effort, hard work, time and understanding.

 

 

written with thanks to my colleague Vera Russell.

 

Complicated Grief

What is Complicated Grief?
April 29, 2018 By Rev. Terri Daniel, MA, CT

The term “complicated grief” is greatly misunderstood by the bereaved, in large part because the word “complicated” has recently become a pop culture buzzword. Many people have said to me, “ALL grief is complicated,” which is evidence of this misunderstanding. Because all grief is NOT complicated. The majority of people move toward restoration and healing in an expected, healthy — non-complicated — manner. So what does complicated mean in this context?
Think of it this way… you’ve heard of medical procedures that have “complications” when something doesn’t go as expected; something interferes with the expected trajectory of healing. In bereavement, a person is supposed to adapt and adjust to their new reality over time. But if the person feels/functions exactly the same way three years after the loss as he/she did three weeks after the loss, there is a complication.
Complicated grief is also known as “prolonged mourning disorder” or PGD, which I think is a much better way to describe it.
It is normal and expected that we will grieve and feel deep pain when we have a loss, but it is also normal to eventually find peace again. The process of healing depends on many factors, including:
. The relationship with the deceased (spouse, child, etc)
. The type of loss (violent, traumatic, illness, expected vs. unexpected, etc)
. The innate psychological make-up of the griever
. The quality of one’s family and community support
. Whether the death is socially acceptable
. Belief systems that can undermine healing

These are very brief descriptions and broad generalizations (for the sake of brevity).
You can learn more by reading this article from Psychology Today. If you’re interested in a more in-depth academic analysis, take a look at my 2018 essay on complicated grief.
In the last 40 years there has been a wave of new academic and medical research on grief, and we’ve also learned a lot from looking at how other cultures work with grief (thanks to mass media and the internet). Based on this information, we know that although the grief experience is different for everybody, there is a more or less normative trajectory for regaining equilibrium after a loss. When a person does not follow that trajectory, there are “complications,” and that is when help — such as counseling — is needed.
Important to note… grief counseling is a very specialized field, and most therapists and counselors are not specifically trained in that area. If you are considering counseling, please make sure the provider has specific training and experience with grief and trauma.

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Terri has very kindly given me permission to reprint her post.  She can be contacted through the following address.

Rev. Terri Daniel, MA, CT
http://www.AfterlifeConference.com

The psychology Today article can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/get-hardy/201309/about-complicated-bereavement-disorder-0

Please also refer to Repair and Reattachment Grief Therapy at this url:  https://www.rochellewright.com/

 

 

 

worth saying again…

This piece of writing about grief that circulates from time to time is worth repeating if only for those who have not seen it, or who have found their circumstances irrevocably changed.

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Please don’t ask me if I am over it yet.

I’ll never get over it.

Please don’t tell me she (he) is in a better place.

She’s (He’s) not here with me.

Please don’t say she (he) isn’t suffering anymore.

I haven’t come to terms with why she (he) had to suffer at all.

Please don’t tell me how you feel.

Unless you’ve lost someone in the same way.

Please don’t ask me if I feel better.

Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up.

Please don’t tell me at least you had her (him) for so many years.

What year would you like your loved one to die?

Please don’t tell me God never gives us more than we can bear.

Please just say you are sorry.

Please just say you remember my loved one if you do.

Please mention my loved one’s name.

Please be patient with me when I am sad.

Please just let me be free to be my changing self.

Please just let me cry.

 

These words, I think, illustrate two very important features of bereavement.

First, that it is not something that people recover from.  Rather it is a process of becoming.  Becoming more familiar with a world that has profoundly changed and my moving to a place where the heart-ache is carried more easily and in a way that permits enjoyment of life again.

Secondly, it describes the fact that while people die and are physically absent…our relationship to them does not die.  Children who have died continue to be a part of their families in ways that continue to evolve over our lifetime.   They remain loved ones that families want to talk about, whose stories they will continue to want to share with others and with whom they will maintain a deep and abiding eternal connection.

 

Time and Grief

Most bereaved people are on the receiving end, at some time or other, of comments that suggest that ‘time will heal all wounds’ or encouragement such as, ‘you’ll be fine in a while ‘ or ‘just give it time’.

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Equally, they are frequently on the receiving end of misunderstandings about how long it may take to become familiar with a world profoundly and forever altered and not of their own choosing.

The suggestion that time heals, in my view, does an enormous disservice to the hard work and sometimes overwhelming effort that bereaved people make to adapt to their changed circumstances after the death of a loved one.   It gives time some kind of active participation in the process and makes bereaved people appear to be the passive recipients of time’s healing efforts.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Time is simply something that is measured by clocks and calendars.

It is a convention to measure existence.  Our perception of time is a fluid thing.  Time can go slowly or quickly even seem to ‘stand still.’  We talk about things being timeless.  We can recall things in our past and they can feel as fresh as yesterday or a very long time ago.

However we may understand time, I would suggest it is not an entity that can ‘do’ things.  To suggest that it works on human heartache in a positive healing way is to deny the very active nature of grieving and rebuilding our lives after a death.

The old saying “time heals all wounds” is simply not true.

Parents do not ‘get over’ the death of their child.  There is no amount of time that can pass that will alter the fact that their child has died and that they must continue to live with this unchanging reality.  Time does not stop the ache in hearts nor does it erase the missing of those we love.

Notions of time do however play a part in the grieving process.

Initially for many time will stand still…the rest of the world seems to be getting on with things while the life of the bereaved seems to have stopped.    People often comment on how their sense of time seems distorted.  It can feel like yesterday or forever ago since they did a particular thing.  The death can seem incredibly fresh and yet it can be years since it occurred.

I suspect that this may be because the intensity of grief in the early weeks, with its capacity to fill every available bit of one’s being, carries with it an inability to connect to calendar time – the passage of hours, days, weeks and months seem completely irrelevant.

Once time stops standing still, so to speak, bereaved people may not think much beyond the present day and the recent past.  It is too overwhelming to think about days beyond because that would mean thinking about a future that does not include their child.

Thinking about the recent past generally involves thinking about all that led up to the death as well as focusing on memories so as not to forget.  It is exquisitely painful to think about the many years ahead.  For quite a long time it is simply not possible to think too far ahead.

However, gradually and with tiny baby steps, those who are heartbroken do start to function again.  It becomes possible again to do the shopping, cook meals, go out, take care of surviving children etc.  Time does not do this…YOU DO and frequently with an enormously huge effort.

However, time does provide a different vantage point that enables people to look back and acknowledge the ways in which they have moved from how they were in the beginning, how they may be different in terms of thinking, feeling and doing.  This awareness may boost confidence about survivability and may herald the beginning of regaining a sense of mastery and control over overwhelming thoughts and feelings.

Many of us recognise that after a while, the time in between moments of overwhelming sorrow becomes longer and the time spent feeling overwhelmed becoming shorter.

I would suggest that it is not the passage of time that does this but your own greater familiarity with your grief, your own better ability to ensure breaks from pain and your own greater ability to re-engage with life within your broader social world.  Such capacities usually occur against a background of learning to live with the experience and discovering ways to build a life around the pain of loss.

All of these abilities are actively engaged in by those bereaved, not always consciously, but nevertheless by the bereaved.

I, as a professional Social Worker, Psychotherapist and bereaved mother of an only child am privy to the painstaking struggle that families make to reconnect with life and rebuild their lives.  Time alone does not do this!!!  To think that it does is to take away acknowledgement of all the hard work and frequently painful work done by individuals and families.

As families engage in the tough task of rebuilding, they are further subjected to time constraints placed on them by the outside world.

Most of us have had experiences where others clearly underestimate the amount of time it takes to rebuild and in particular, the time that people continue to feel sad.

We allow more time for people to adapt to workplace change or moving house than we do for grieving people becoming accustomed to a profoundly changed world.

Family and friends, perhaps especially after the death of a child, are often very attentive and caring in the beginning.

For many, such support tends to diminish before the bereaved stop needing it.  Friends and families may think and some directly say it, that it’s time to move on, that you need to get over it, that you have the rest of your lives to think about, other children to pay attention to etc etc

Others may give various forms of “hurry-up” messages.  They want the bereaved person get back to normal and to do so fairly quickly.  Our broader society supports and encourages this notion of a speedy return to pre-existing normalcy as if that were possible.

Bereaved people very simply need to be allowed more TIME to adapt and regenerate.  Time is not the prime ‘doer’…..it is the context within which all grieving and mourning and rebuilding take place.

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with thanks to my colleague Vera Russell