Category Archives: Grief

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce

Separation/ divorce is a period of great life upheaval and emotional turmoil. It’s heartbreaking to watch loved ones suffer through it, and it can be stressful trying to figure out how you can help, and what you should or should not say or do. But it doesn’t have to be stressful. The best way to help your loved ones is actually pretty simple: it all boils down to empathy.

7 Ways To Support Loved Ones Going Through Separation/ Divorce:

1.) Realize You Don’t  Have To Choose A Side:

It takes two people to make a relationship, and it also takes two people to cause a relationship to end.  Whatever the story may appear to be from the outside looking in, chances are the reality is much different. You truly never know, nor do you need to. The details of everything really aren’t your business. Being a supportive friend is your business though. If you loved both spouses before their split, it’s okay to love them both after. Losing a husband/ wife is painful enough, they really don’t need, or deserve to lose their friends too.

2.) Let It Be All About Them:

When experiencing great life upheaval and loss, what a person needs more than anything else is to be heard. To tell their story to a fully engrossed, empathetic, nonjudgemental listener. A listener who keeps the story focused on their friend, without constant interruption, or interjections of anecdotes of their own relationship troubles. This can be tough to do, but if you are able to do it, you will be giving your loved one a rare gift indeed.

3.) Try Not To Take Their Distance Personally:

If your loved one withdraws during their time of separation and loss, please try not to take it personally. Perhaps seeing you would cause them too many emotions they aren’t ready to face just yet.  Perhaps most of the time spent with you in the past was with their spouse, and the memories are still too raw and painful. Whatever the reason, if your loved one seems to be avoiding you, they probably are doing it to protect themselves during an extremely vulnerable time.  They still love you. They still think of you often. They still need you, and they will come around in time, I promise. Please just be patient and give them that time.

4.) Remember Every Situation Is Unique:

When confiding in someone, nothing is worse than being met with a “been there, done that” sort of attitude. Yes, hearts have been breaking since humans first walked the earth. Yes, separation/divorce has happened millions of times before, maybe even to you. This is the first time it is happening to your loved one though. Every headache, every heartache is very unique to them.  Please be sure to dignify their experience, to honour their feelings, rather than diminish them by reminding them how common their situation is. Your loved one is aware they are not the only person to ever go through this. Reminding them is unnecessary, and sure doesn’t make them hurt any less. Please honour their feelings. Treat their suffering as something as individual as they are, rather than with stereotypes and generalizations.

5.) Remember They Are Mourning A Loss As Real As Death:

Experiencing separation/divorce is very similar to experiencing a death. It’s death of day to day life as you know it. It’s death of a future you had planned and taken comfort in. It’s loss of arms that held you, a partner you thought would be there unconditionally. It’s loss of materials, family members, time with children, family traditions and inside jokes. Years of once pleasant memories become torturous. A social status you took pride and comfort in vanishes, and is replaced with potential judgement and loneliness.  Despite separation / divorce being a choice, it’s still a huge loss that causes very real grief. The fact that it’s a choice can also make it even harder, when feelings of guilt and self doubt creep in.  Help your loved one by acknowledging how huge heir suffering is. What they are going through is a really big deal.  As serious as death is. Remind them of this, and offer your sympathy often.

6.) Offer Advice Only When It’s Requested:

If your loved one is looking for advice during their separation/ divorce, they will ask for it. Even then, it’s very likely they won’t do what you say, unless deep down they have already made the decision to do it on their own anyway. Giving unsolicited advice (unless of course, you feel their safety is at risk) to your loved one during a time of such turmoil is likely to make them feel misunderstood and disrespected. Instead, you can encourage them when you think they are doing the right thing, and be there to offer a hug when they realize they have made (very importantly, their own) mistakes, which will teach them far deeper life lessons than following your advice ever could.

7.) Give An Abundance Of Encouragement and Praise:

It’s very easy for those going through separation/ divorce to feel like they have failed somehow. Remind your loved one that the real failure would have been to continue on living life feeling miserable, resentful and hopeless. To admit something just can’t work any more, and resolve to make extremely difficult changes in the hope of long term happiness is very brave. To face the emotional and financial consequences of separation, and dive all alone  into a new life that is completely unknown takes guts. Never stop reminding your loved one of this. They have not failed. They have taken control of the one life they get to live on this earth. They are carving a new path. Praise and encourage your loved one every step of the way. Be their greatest fan. Most importantly, be you. Their life has completely transformed. That doesn’t mean your relationship with them has to.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

The Thing About Grief

It’s a deep, twisting, vertical cave, and you cling somewhere to the side of it. The Rock is slimy, cold, covered with a residue of something quite foul. You are frozen, unable to climb up toward the light.

You can hear them calling you from the light at the top of the cave. You rest your cheek for just a minute against the icy rock. You despise it here. You wish you could feel their love, and that it could save you. You wish you actually wanted to live, for them. But right now, all you want is to let go of that jagged rock, and be free. You are desperate to stop hurting. You didn’t know this type of torture was even possible.

The thing about grief, is that it can be caused by many different things:

Death of someone you love, care for, admire.

Loss of a beloved pet.

Loss of a close friendship.

Loss of/ ending of a career that gave you a deep sense of purpose.

Loss of a romantic relationship.

The end of a marriage.

A parent leaving.

The ending of a dream, vision you had of the way your life would be.

Loss of your life as you know it, as you are comfortable with, as you have come to depend on.

Love and care in any form that you had once relied on, suddenly taken away.

Those things all cause grief.

And the thing about grief, is there is absolutely nothing that can be done to make it go away. Grief is awful beyond belief. Period.

You have to feel it, in all it’s miserable, hellish agony, before you can even begin to think about healing. That means for a certain length of time, you will exist without joy, without a sense of hope, without anything except your will to keep clinging to the inside of that cave.

And that is okay.

Don’t you dare put on a fake smile to make others feel comfortable.  Don’t you dare pretend you are okay. Don’t you dare let anyone tell you “it could be worse.” Don’t you dare let anyone tell you to “be strong.”

Because, my dear, the very fact that you still live, enduring the hell on the inside of that cave, clinging despite your stiff, tired hands, and exhausted heart. ……..that, my dear, proves you are very, very strong.

As you exist, feeling ill, exhausted, angry, full of sorrow on the side of that cave, take comfort in the fact that you are strong. Yes, you feel helpless, because pretty much, that’s exactly what you are. Helpless. Unable to gain back what you have lost. Unable to escape your pain, except during sleep, if you are lucky.

It sucks very, very badly. It probably will for a long time. The last thing you want to hear is some hopefull, flowery quote telling you to think positive and it will be okay in the end. So I won’t do that.

But I am going to say that one day (when you are ready and not one moment sooner,) you will remember that you are alive, and that your life belongs to you. You could not control the devastating loss you have suffered, but you can control what you do with the life that still exists within you.  It is your life that those voices coming from the light at the top of the cave are calling for. Over time, those voices will get stronger, and that light will get brighter, because you will have started your careful climb upward.

An important part of your heart, of who you are, has died. The suffering you have endured is indescribable, and you deserve every ounce of sympathy you receive.

But, you have not died. You still live. You have full control over what you do with the days you have left on this Earth. I really hope you choose to (eventually) have some fun, find a new purpose, and love again. You deserve love. And just because you have lost love in the past, does not mean you will lose it again.

The thing about grief is, the reason it hurts so badly is that at one time you had something very, very special. At one time, you had something that made your soul happy. Try to remember that. And keep gripping to the side of that cave.

 

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Thanks for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

Your Lion On A Leash

Although nobody ever sees him, you walk this world accompanied by a lion on a leash.

Most of the time your fierce, ferocious lion is very well behaved. He saunters beside you, you hardly even notice he’s there. He’s your silent companion. He makes you feel safe, most of the time. He makes you feel beautifully, heroically tragic. He makes you feel unique.  He keeps you company at night.

You hold on to his leash tightly at all times. You cling to his frightening, but familiar presence. You need him. Even though every now and then he gets pretty darn mean.

Sometimes you lose control of your lion on a leash. His roar rattles you, his teeth glint in the sunlight and threaten you, his wild stare breaks your heart.

In these moments, you wish your lion and you had never met.

In these moments, you wish more than anything that you could figure out how to let him go.

But you remain bound to him with that twisting, burning, invisible leash. You struggle to tame his wild fury. Nobody else notices a thing.

In desperation, you feed him until he’s satisfied, and once again at peace by your side. You sigh with relief.

Nobody knows you better than your lion on a leash. He is your most intimate friend. He owns the most vulnerable parts of your soul.

You relish him. You love him. You fear him. You loathe him.

Whether his name is Perceived Failure, Heartbreak, Grief, Traumatic Life Experience, Regret, or Anger,

your lion does not belong bound to you on a leash.

He isn’t meant to be a secret, chained forever to you.

Your lion has taught you strength. Your lion has taught you courage. Your lion will forever be a part of who you are.

He isn’t you though.

You’ve got to stop feeding him. You’ve got to set him free, before one day his wild rage devours you whole.

You will never forget him, and he may never be fully done with you.

But never give up trying to set him free.

He doesn’t belong bound to you with a leash.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk

 

 

 

Holidays Aren’t Happy For Everyone…And That Should Be Okay

Waking before dawn, sneaking into your siblings’ room to whisper excitedly about what special treasures you might soon find hidden downstairs.

Snuggling on the couch with a full belly, surrounded by the comforting sound of loved ones’ laughter.

Photographs flashing.

Wine glasses clinking.

Wishing time would pass just a little more slowly, so you could take it all in, relish it, savour it.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But for some, this coming and going can’t happen fast enough.

Waking before dawn, your stomach sinking with dread as you remember the day ahead will be filled with forced smiles, the hiding of shaking hands, and drinks taken in secret.

Clutching your blankets, breathing deep to hold back the nausea, as you long for the comfort of your lost loved one’s laughter.

Photograph avoiding.

Wine glass refilling.

Wishing time could just skip over this day, so you wouldn’t have to put on an act, so you could avoid the guilt, escape the pain.

Holidays come and go quickly, as all special occasions seem to. But there are people out there who would rather the holidays didn’t come at all.

Perhaps it’s because they grieve a great loss which only gets highlighted when the holidays arrive. But they endure it with a smile so they don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.

Perhaps they suffer anxiety in silence and feel overwhelmed and exhausted by pretending they’re okay throughout the flurry of family activity.

Perhaps they suffer depression, and attend holiday events out of obligation. Expectations to enjoy and be happy force their face into a smile, but inside their feelings of guilt and self loathing only grow.

Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be nice if those who are unhappy come holiday time didn’t have to pretend?

Of course we have the best of intentions when we expect and encourage full, enthusiastic participation in holiday events, when we wish everyone a “Merry Christmas”,  we certainly don’t mean to make anyone feel bad.

We just need a little more awareness.

We just need a little more acceptance.

We just need a little more openness and honesty.

Although we’ve made progress, our society still feels rather uncomfortable being open about things that aren’t sunshine and roses, and this is especially true at holiday time.  And what do we do when we’re uncomfortable? We judge, we avoid, we ignore. This makes things much harder than they have to be for people who are grieving or suffering mental illness.

Pretending is exhausting. Pretending is lonely. Pretending makes you feel ashamed of your reality.

Let’s take the pressure off holiday happiness.

Let’s ask honest questions about how loved ones are feeling.

Let’s extend invitations that are truly optional, and come with alternative plans for later.

Let’s acknowledge our loved ones’ struggles with respect and empathy.

Although we can’t make things all better, we sure can make the holidays easier by being real. Not everyone loves holidays. And that is okay.

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Thank you for reading.

Be Brave, and Talk