Five More Minutes: A Grief Relief Column

Published 9:12 am Tuesday, May 22, 2018

What is the old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?”  With grief, those words seem to ring true and haunt countless amounts of people who suffer from regret and guilt after the death of a loved one.  It’s not necessarily that they didn’t profess their love often enough or that they ever questioned their commitment to one other- instead it is mostly the overwhelming hardship of having to live the rest of their lives living with words left unspoken.

When sudden death occurs, people describe their grief as a feeling of having been “robbed.”  They focus on every last minute or hour, every last interaction or encounter and wonder about what they could have done or said differently if they only had the time.  “Five more minutes” is a common phrase that many share within their counseling sessions, “just five more minutes” to see their smile, hear their voice once again or to have the chance to say all of those things that have since welled up within their hearts.  For many, this creates that illusion of feeling stuck and unable to process or move forward due to the fact that they cannot truly accept that their loved one is gone and is never coming back.  The focus becomes inundated with all of the “If only” instead of the acceptance of their new reality and it can impede a healthy grieving process if not discussed and identified.

However, there is a normalcy in listing our regrets and wishing for time back that will never be gifted to us.  Many of us experience that desire or need to have everything return back to the way it was, to push back at death and refuse to let it attempt to destroy our lives, and yet, death doesn’t listen to bargaining or make deals.  Much to our chagrin, when death approaches, there is little or nothing we can do to stop it from coming. Once it occurs, the tailspin of grief begins and the aches and pain of heartbreak take center stage.

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It is easy to tell people to live life to its fullest, to live with no regrets and to always attempt to be present in each and every moment.  But, the fact of the matter remains that sometimes we become too comfortable, too complacent in our lives and we often forget to take advantage of the simple things and appreciate the time allotted to us with those we love.  That is what makes grieving so hard, because not only are we feeling their loss, but we are also experiencing the initial stages of “guilty beginnings”- that new phenomenon that occurs when we must move on without our loved ones and the inner torment we place upon ourselves for surviving, for living.

Five more minutes may not seem like much to most, but for those who are currently walking the grief path, five more minutes is like a goldmine or winning the lottery all at once.  If we were gifted with that time, what would we say?  How would we choose to use that time?  If you can answer those questions now, try to have those conversations today with your loved ones and be cognizant of the fact that we are never promised another day or another moment.  Decide to have that “five minute” conversation, have it often and recognize it for what it truly is- the gift that keeps on giving, even after death.