By: Nicole Rhodes
There’s nothing quite like death to make you feel like things are out of your control. You may feel powerless in the death itself and all of the losses that follow. Not only did your biggest cheerleader, most trusted confidant, or parenting partner die, but now you have to change jobs to sustain your lifestyle, move to be closer to family, take on new responsibilities in caring for your home or children … the list goes on. As if this wasn’t enough, the peanut gallery chimes in with shoulds, suggestions, and judgment.
Then, here you are.
Struggling. Swirling with conflicting suggestions and shoulds. Overwhelmed with demands. Holding yourself to expectations and standards developed from a world that doesn’t appreciate the pain of grief. Expectations and standards often developed from our old frameworks - our pre-loss selves - with goalposts that are unrealistic, unhelpful, and unfair.
Are these expectations living rent-free in your mind?
Give yourself permission.
per ٜ● mis ● sion
Permission to not be over it in <insert a timeframe here>.
It’s been three days and you’re not ready to go back to work. You’re doing it wrong.
It’s been two weeks and your house is a mess. You’re doing it wrong.
It’s been six months and you haven’t cleaned out their things. You’re doing it wrong.
It’s been thirteen months and today is harder than the first week. You’re doing it wrong.
It’s been ten years and you still can’t bear to hear their name. You’re doing it wrong.
Despite being ill-informed, messages like this are plenty following a death. We can’t say this loud enough: THERE’S. NO. TIMEFRAME. FOR. GRIEF. And truly, are we ever over it? Do we want to be? We are here to tell you that it’s okay to not be over it. It’s okay to not have the energy to clean. It’s okay to not want to get rid of the very things that made your person your person.
Permission to not believe everything happens for a reason.
Have you ever heard the saying you can’t make sense out of nonsense? That applies here. It can be difficult at best to surmise reasons for the tragic events that happen all around us — the deaths of children, newlyweds, 800,000+ pandemic deaths, and more. Some do learn to find or make meaning in the deaths of those important in their lives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a must. Give yourself the space to hold that sometimes awful things just happen.
Permission to survive the holidays, yet feel lost in the mundane.
Have you ever noticed how the world seems to pay attention to grief around the winter holidays and then there’s just … nothing when December is over? The loneliness of January and the mundane of going to the grocery store is profound (it’s not just you that hates the grocery store, trust us). It’s okay that your hardest days are the ones nobody can pinpoint on the calendar.
Permission to be you.
It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders when you are grieving, especially when you assume new responsibilities following a death. Somehow post-death you’re immediately supposed to know how to get a death certificate, file life insurance claims, fix the sink, teach your son how to tie a tie, … the list goes on. In this time, allow yourself to simply be you … not both Mom and Dad, not a handyman (if you weren’t one previously), not a superchef, etc. Be you. It’s one of the best gifts you can offer to those around you, especially when so much has already changed.
Permission to not follow stages.
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross did an excellent job of making the topic of grief and loss become more mainstream. Unfortunately, though, her work was misunderstood and the idea of grief having stages became really popular. While pop culture is slowly taking a step back from this narrative, grievers still think they’re doing it wrong (YOU’RE NOT!) if you haven’t hit the “anger” stage yet. Grief is not linear. You will not follow the path of others around you. Allow yourself to feel what comes and be open to the limitless feelings (good + bad) to come.
Permission to be happy.
While we try to avoid the “shoulds” in grief support, we want you to know it’s okay to be happy. Like, really. It’s totally okay to enjoy the fresh air, laugh at whatever new thing Pete Davidson is doing, and generally enjoy life. This might take time. It might not. And that’s okay.
Permission to mourn.
A bit of “Grief 101” for you here … Grief is all of the thoughts + feelings that we hold inside. Mourning is all of the external stuff, including grief rituals, like funerals and other memorial services, that we do post-death. Even before the pandemic, there seemed to be a trend of replacing funerals with “celebration of life” ceremonies and requesting _____ in lieu of flowers. If this feels right to you, do it. But know that it’s okay to be outwardly sad and to want to be in the company of others doing it.
Permission to experience the full range of grief.
Grief is all-encompassing. It’s in your head, in your heart, in your body, in the way you interact with others, and the way you see yourself fitting in the world. It’s transformational and not simply … sadness. Allow yourself to experience the impact (positive + negative) the loss has on your world. Denying that your social circle has changed or your beliefs in a higher power are different can derail your process, whatever that may be.
Permission to speak up.
People say and do awful things to grievers, mostly well-intentioned, sometimes not. It’s okay to tell others that whatever hurtful thing they said wasn’t okay to you. It’s okay to say that you’re not ready - or don’t want - to move, date, have another child, or change something about your life that you don’t want.
Permission to seek help.
While grief is a natural, normal experience, this doesn’t mean it is easy. Sometimes, the expectation to be “over it”, the secondary losses, new responsibilities, and “the shoulds” are just too much. Give yourself the gift of seeking someone who won’t rush you, who will acknowledge the all-encompassing pain of grief, and who won’t pressure you to do or be something you aren’t quite ready to do or be.
Grief support in St. Louis, MO is available to you. Marble Wellness offers in-person, virtual, or park therapy appointments with therapists trained in the nuances of grief. Reach out today to schedule your first appointment for grief counseling.
What other permissions have you offered yourself - or someone offered you - while grieving a death or other loss? Let us know.