Working with so many people who are grieving, I have come to a conclusion. There are people willing to do the work that it takes to adjust to a life without their loved one and there are people who aren’t. There are people who will remain bitter and angry always. There are people who will cling to the pain of grief and those who will forever identify themselves as “bereaved.” Queen Victoria did. Following the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert, she wore black every day for the rest of her life.
I received a phone call recently from a distraught widow. She told me that a woman at church had approached her and told her, “Trust me. It never gets better.” Faced with the prospect of a life of such immense emotional pain, she was overwhelmed and desperate for help. Immediately I assured her that it does get better. For that woman, it may not have, but for most it does. The key difference? Those who move through the pain of grief and adjust to their new life work at it.
Time does not heal – what we do with the time we are given can help us heal. That is why I recommend grief support groups where people gather together to share stories and support one another. At a group last night a man asked me, “Will the pain ever completely go away?” I had to answer honestly, “no, it doesn’t.” It does not ever completely go away. It does, however, change and get lighter. More days will be happier than sad. Fewer things will trigger sudden outbursts of tears. Life will move forward and you will take your loved one with you. Their loss will always be felt in your heart, but it will become more like a twinge than a hole. It will get better.
When I am feeling overwhelmed, I remember these words, “There is no storm that lasts forever.” I repeat them over and over again as a mantra to reassure myself that these deep feelings of sadness will pass. I know, in those moments, that I will feel happiness again. I will laugh and have a day spent enjoying activities with friends and family.
That day is coming for you as well. I cannot tell you when. I cannot tell you how. But I can tell you that one evening you will find yourself realizing what a wonderful day you just had. It will come as a surprise to you, but if you put in the effort to create coping skills to heal from the grief, that day will arrive.
For the others? Those who wear black the rest of their lives (if not on the outside, then on the inside): They too will be healed. It may not happen while they are alive. But, ultimately, in this lifetime or the one after, everyone is healed.
Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons/Randy Son of Robert