You Still Matter to Me

The time we had together will never be enough
My grief is a measure of the depth of my love for you.
Profound.  Fathomless.  Bottomless.  

Without you, I no longer know who I am.
The meaning and purpose of my existence left with you.
Lost.  Wandering.  Anchorless.

Intense grief will guide me to a renewal of my spirit.
I will begin to learn to embrace life without you.
Confusing.  Guilt.  Grief.

The intensity of my grief will lower and I will mourn the loss.
Just know that you always have and always will matter to me.
Love.  Reconciliation.  Hope.

The Grief of Moving Forward: The Fear of Forgetting

At the beginning of our grief journey, the intensity of the pain is so great that we often think we will never experience any level of joy again.  We are consumed by sadness and the lethargy that comes with so great a loss.  

At some point in our journey, we find brief, fleeting moments of joy.  Our overwhelming sadness and emptiness find relief for a brief second.  Then we gradually move from seconds to minutes to hours of grief relief and may even begin to find some pleasure in life again.  The grief bursts and grief tsunamis still come, but the intervals between them lengthen.

Later in the journey, we experience full days of grief relief and begin to recognize that the deepest, most intense feelings and thoughts of grief are softening.  Typically, this is when fear slips in and we begin the process of grieving the lowering of the intensity of our grief.

Why do we grieve the lowering of the intensity of our grief?

1. We equate grieving less intensely with loving less intensely. 
Grief is love.  When someone we cherish dies, love becomes so very painful that we call it grief.  Somewhere along our journey, the intensity of our grief lowers and our grief begins to look and feel more like love again.  The intensity of our grief was so great that we are anxious when it returns to the normal intensity of love that cemented our relationship in the first place.

2. We often think/feel that the intensity of our grief is our continuing connection to our loved one and if the intensity lowers, this connection will grow weaker and may disappear altogether.
Our connection to our loved one is love.  The lowering of the intensity of our grief has no connection to the depth of our love.  Remember that the painful love we call grief returns to the less intense, but deeply meaningful and unending love for them.  We have, do and always will love them with all of our heart.

3. We think/feel that the life of our loved one will cease to matter.
When someone we love dies, we quickly realize that others move on while we are just beginning our grief journey.  Our hardest days are just beginning, but our support system seems to suddenly disappear.  With this realization comes the fear that our loved one has ceased to matter.  We may feel that the deep intensity of our pain is palpable proof that their life did and always will matter.  We unintentionally assume the responsibility of making certain they are not forgotten and often equate the intensity of our grief with the level of our belief that their life mattered.

When the intensity of our grief lowers, what we can do to intentionally honor and nourish our continuing connection with them?

1.  Keep pictures of them on display.

2.  Continue to recall and tell and retell stories about them.

3.  Start new traditions.

  1. Buy a candle and quietly light it at each family gathering.
  2. Buy or make an ornament/seasonal wreath in their memory each year.
  3. Make their favorite food on their birthday, death anniversary, etc.
  4. Do an intentional act of kindness in their honor on special days.

What the Grieving Wish You Knew About the Holidays

Holidays are often difficult for those who grieve the death of a loved one. Truth be told, most would rather avoid the season altogether and disappear until January 2nd. We can’t take their grief from them, but we can certainly be more sensitive about unintentionally adding to their pain. Here are a few simple suggestions offered by those who are missing a loved one especially during the holidays.

Instead of sending a happy holiday card, send a thinking of you card. Simply sign the card or write one supportive sentence. For example, “I’ll never forget David’s big smile” or “You are in our thoughts and prayers during this holiday season.” If you send a typical holiday card, they may wonder how you can possibly think they can be joyful when their loved one has died.

Be aware that sending your family photo in a card can be very painful for them. The presence of your intact family often magnifies the absence of their family member.

When you invite them to a holiday event, don’t pressure them to attend. It simply may be too difficult for them. Understand if they decline. If they leave earlier than expected, understand they have reached their “being around people” limit and don’t question or pressure them to stay longer.

If they choose to treat the holiday as “just another day,” understand they are doing the best they can just to make it through this time of year. They aren’t in “denial” or “grieving too much,” they are doing what they need to do to take care of themselves.  

If they choose to get away for the holidays or start a new tradition, honor their decision. They don’t need the additional stress of well-meaning friends and family acting offended or pressuring them to participate in traditional events. Remember this is about them - not about you.

Trust what they tell you and what they choose to do. Do not pressure them to make a different decision or tell them what you would do if you were in their shoes. Grief is like a thumbprint.  It is different for everyone.  Allow them the courtesy and right to grieve in their own way.  You don’t know what’s best for them, they do.

Do something in memory of their loved one. Buy or make an ornament and give it to them. Make their loved one’s favorite dish or dessert. Or donate to your favorite charity in their memory. Or give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant. You’ll think of something.

Don’t tell them what you would do if you were in their shoes. You aren’t. Everyone grieves differently. Even the most well intended advice can be hurtful and may even come across as condescending.

Text or email them to let them know you are thinking about them. Simply say “Thinking about you” or “Praying for you” or “Remembering you during the holidays” will be received with gratitude.

Don’t be afraid to say the name of their loved one. You won’t make them sad. They are already sad. What hurts them most is never hearing the name of their loved one again as if they never existed.  

Realize that you don’t even have to use words. A gentle hug or a touch on the shoulder says more than you realize.

Holidays are lonely and painful for those who grieve the death of a loved one. Make a commitment to do something to let them know you remember they are still grieving.  Just let them know you remember and care.  It’s really that simple!