We Hold These Truths...

by Jill Francis on January 10th, 2017

I am not a sociologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, scientist, researcher or otherwise trained professional who studies people, grief, and loss and then tells the rest of us what the data means.  I studied French.  Bonjour.  And although I'm no expert, I have fifteen years of studying the effects of Alzheimer's and grief on my family, I have studied friends who have suffered loss and I have observed casual acquaintances process grief.  I have many hours of personal research which have led me to non-scientifically determine there are Three Truths about loss/grief/pain that apply to all of humanity (in my humble opinion).

Truth I :  It is good to have perspective on my pain; someone else's pain may be greater than mine.  Before you tell me to stuff it, please continue to read...

 I tend to manage my "dark days" by sitting on the couch with a blanky, a bowl of ice cream and a list of "must see"  chick flicks; If there's a princess involved (animated or "real"), so much the better.  After about day three of this*, there is an Inner Voice that speaks to me and tells me to get up and join humanity.  If I don't, then on day four, (it never fails), a friend or acquaintance will call me and tell me their story of pain...which is often much greater than my own.  

There is a benefit to having a perspective of my hurt in comparison to others:  it reminds me I am not alone in my suffering and it reminds me there are those who suffer more; thereby reminding me to be grateful for my own circumstances, even if they're difficult.  Alzheimer's and the loss of my mother was painful, but I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child or of having a child with a terminal illness.  For me, that kind of pain is greater than mine and it gives me perspective.  My GPPS (Global Pain Perspective Scale) interrupts my obsessive dark thoughts about myself and helps me adjust my focus to a healthier place outside myself.  It helps me stop the wallowing in my own pain and self-pity.   But...this does not mean I can run away from my own pain...

Truth 2 : My Pain is real and in need of healing.  

Placing my pain on the GPPS and determining its relationship to others, does not mean I can hide behind theirs and ignore my own.  If I am going to be healthy and whole, then I must acknowledge my pain and go Through (‚Äčhttp://graciousgoodbyes.org/blog/2016/09/03/through) the process of healing.  This takes time.  And the greater the loss, the longer the recovery.  

We would never expect the recovery from a knee replacement surgery to be easier than the recovery from a scraped knee, yet when it comes to emotional pain we often treat it as a simple scrape and expect to "rub some dirt on it" and move on with life.  
That.  Doesn't.  Work.
A patient with a new and artificial knee must go through the difficult process of physical therapy in order to walk again and in order for the new part to mesh with the old bones; and they will never fully recover if they don't do the hard work of physical therapy...they will forever limp.  

Unresolved grief can lead to emotional crippling...my pain needs to be confronted addressed and healed.  I may even need a counselor, support group, pastor or other professional to help me...and that is ok.  If I want to be whole, I need to be healed.

Truth 3:  We recover at different rates of healing.

I have a friend who lost her precious momma to Alzheimer's.  About three months after her mother passed away, she mentioned that she was still struggling with her grief.  "Of course you are", I told her, "it's only been three months, that's nothing.   You're allowed a year!  Minimum!"
My friend believed she should cry for a couple of months and "move on".  I explained that most counselors and therapists believe we all need at least a year to mourn, in order to transition through all of the seasons, birthdays and holidays without the loved one.  A year.  Minimum.

I have another friend who took two years to really process the loss of her mother and she went through the Grief Share (www.griefshare.org) program twice.  Six years later, we still speak about her momma in almost every conversation.  That's ok.

Both of these scenarios may seem extreme, but the point is this:  there is no right or wrong timeline in which to process our pain...as long as we do it.  So give yourself a break if it's taking you longer than expected, or less time than you expected, and offer the same grace to someone in your life who may be hurting.  We are all unique creations and the way and timeline in which we heal is uniquely our own.

Three Truths common to all of us, yet unique to every individual.  Three Truths, that I believe, can lead to wholeness if we choose to live in them. 

(*Please recognize that my "dark days" are typically due to circumstantial depression or "the blues".  I am not suggesting that everyone should only have three days, I am simply sharing my experiences without judgement on anyone else.)

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