As I reflect on some of those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, I have had the privilege to be a presence for, I remain amazed by the resiliency of the human spirit. As a bereavement counselor of Gilchrist Hospice Care, I often see those who are at their lowest point of their lives. They are in intense pain and at their most vulnerable. But somehow through the process of grieving, they come to a different place. It is seeing someone go from daily tears and disbelief that their loved one is gone to the transition of acceptance and the ability to move forward, that is astonishing and makes what I do worthwhile.
I often think of those that have taught me this lesson. One individual who comes to mind: a woman who lost her husband, who was also her best friend. She was understandably shaken – highly emotional and very tearful. She was having a difficult time living on her own, disbelief that he was gone and lacking social supports. She hadn’t worked in years due to caretaking responsibilities and was in threat of losing her home. She was probably at the lowest point in her life when we met.
With considerable time, extensive work during her counseling sessions with me on her feelings and emotions, she was able to regain hope for the future and to move forward. You are probably wondering how she did it. What moved her from one point to another? Well, she hit the pain of her loss head on, despite how terrible it felt. She knew that was the only way she would process her loss. She worked through the range of emotions that she was feeling – the good, the bad and the ugly. She knew there would be ups and downs and utilized her newly acquired coping skills.
Memories that would bring about tears slowly became the memories that bought a smile to her face. She joined a Gilchrist Hospice Care support group so that she would have the support of others like her. She learned to ask for what she needed from her supportive friends. She began participating in those things that once brought her joy and happiness, and joined clubs and groups with those of the same interests.
She talked about her husband and said his name to anyone who would listen, keeping him a part of her life. To honor him, she created an annual fundraising event to help others which brought healing. Through attending the Writing Workshop offered by Gilchrist’s Bereavement Services Department he began to journal as an outlet for healing. By networking, she was able to acquire work, which helped provide financial stability, helped her keep her home and improved her self-esteem. She began to feel wanted and needed again. And after many unanswered questions and “whys” related to her husband’s death, she began to turn towards her faith community again.
I learned so much from her and from those I have had the honor of serving. Gaining hope for the future may look different for each individual and it may take its own amount of time but it is possible to move through the grief to a new “normal”. The power of the human spirit amazes me. And by providing continued support to those who are grieving, I will continue to marvel at those who triumph over grief.