Grief is a Family Affair

Published 10:21 am Monday, January 15, 2018

When death occurs, those who are left behind feel as though their life is over as well.  Their hearts are so broken and their feeling of loss and devastation clouds any ability to envision a life that is worth living without their loved ones present.  And yet, as we all know, life does go on and there comes a time when the heart kicks into action once again and feelings of possibility and hope arrive.

For some, this “awakening” can include the desire to seek out the comfort of another, desperate to no longer be alone and determined to be in the presence of someone that brings them joy and happiness.  Some look for this very quickly and others start off thinking they are not interested in ever dating again or slough off attempts by others to encourage them to “move on.”  Truthfully, no matter the initial thoughts or feelings on the subject, a grief journey allows time for reflection and healing.  And, when healing begins and the last tendrils of ice that appeared to grip the heart melt away, eyes open up to new beginnings and the chance that there is opportunity to survive, either alone or in the company of another.

Families differ on how they respond to seeing their loved ones dating again.  They want to focus on how much time has passed or whether or not they think their loved ones are ready, sometimes overlooking that it is not their decision to make.  Others openly embrace seeing them attempting to create joy in their lives and though it is difficult to see them holding the hand of another or stealing a sweet embrace, the initial impact of that softens as they recognize that their loved one has suffered through the toughest battle of their lives and has emerged from the trenches, ready to welcome survival.

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As a grief counselor, the concept of dating again after loss comes up frequently.  Again, some are adamant that they will never date again, others jump right back into the fire unable to envision being alone, and others find themselves entertaining the idea further down the grief path, sometimes even surprising themselves that they are experiencing “those kind of feelings” once again.  What I always try to relay to people is that grief changes us and sends us in many different directions.  Where we find ourselves at one moment may be completely different form where we find ourselves in the end, but the fact of the matter is that we simply don’t know where we are going to be initially.  Honestly, when death occurs, who can envision their future and see all the joy and happiness that possibly awaits?  Answer- almost no one.

Grief blinds us.  It takes away our ability to hold on to the promise that in time, everything will be better.  It angers us and creates moments of denial and a hardened refusal to accept that our life is continuing and that the quality of life is determined by our resilience and will to keep moving forward.  That is where families and friend come into play.  It is imperative that we attempt to be supportive or try to understand when our loved ones start picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and choose to explore life with another.  Yes, it can hurt and yes, it may cause some feelings that are difficult to comprehend, but remember that even though it affects you, it is not your life to live.  It is theirs and if seeing them start living again, smiling, laughing and carrying on some resemblance of a healthy life hurts you, sit down and have a family conversation.  At this point, seeing them decide to live and embracing their new life, outweighs the possibility of having to bury two loved ones instead of one.