As my uncle was getting ready for Hospice care, my father gave me a booklet of things to remember about the grieving process. In the past, I had written about how divorce is life mourning a death. When I got this booklet, I recognized the things to do and what to expect. I had been living them.
This was a list of things to expect in grief by Therese A. Rando, Ph.D., who wrote, How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies. I just subbed “divorce” for “death” for a lot of the following points:
-Your grief will take longer than most people think.
-Your grief will take more energy than you would ever have imagined.
-Your grief will involve many changes and be continually developing.
-Your grief will show itself in all spheres of your life: psychological, social and physical.
-Your grief will depend on how you perceive the loss.
-You will grieve for many things both symbolic and tangible, not just the death alone.
-Your grief will entail mourning not only for the actual person you lost, but also for all of the hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled expectations you held for and with that person, and for the needs that will go unmet because of the death.
-Your grief will involve a wide variety of feelings and reactions, not solely those that are generally thought of as grief, such as depression and sadness.
-The loss will resurrect old issues, past feelings, and unresolved conflicts.
-You will have a combination of anger and depression, such as irritability, frustration, annoyance, or intolerance.
-You will feel some anger and guilt or at least some manifestation of these emotions.
-You may have a lack of self-concern.
-You may experience grief spasms, acute upsurges of grief that occur suddenly.
-You will have trouble thinking and making decisions.
-You may feel like you are going crazy.
-You may be obsessed with the death and preoccupied with the deceased.
-You may begin a search for meaning and may question your religion and/or philosophy of life.
-You may find yourself having a number of physical reactions.
-You may find there are certain dates, events and stimuli that bring upsurges in grief.
-Society will have unrealistic expectations about your mourning and may respond inappropriately to you.
-Certain experiences later in life may resurrect intense grief temporarily.
How amazing was it that experienced every single thing listed, both for good and for bad? It was like the past year was written out on a paper. Somehow I wished I got it earlier.
And yet, I accept that I went through it. I had to experience it all. No amount of fair warning would have helped me, although it would have explained my behavior, the behavior of others and why what was happening around me happened. I wish I could hand this to some my friends who weren’t as understanding about what I was going through, or to those like SL and AB who were going through the exact same thing as I was. We need to understand and accept all these things.
And then through this I understood other people too – people like AD, who I am sure experienced some of the resurgence of his feelings about his divorce by watching me go through mine and make some of the exact same mistakes that he did. I needed to understand that we make mistakes and the experiences we have and the failures that come shape us even many years down the road.
And then, in turn, we have to accept them. We have to not judge and understand that grief is not a bad thing. It is a part of being human. And we need to understand that ever mistake we make and every decision that we have just takes us one step closer to the person we were always meant to be.