I was talking to my friend Max about losing his wife and he said some interesting stuff.
What follows is a summary of what we talked about.
They are not universal truths and they might not apply to anybody else.
They might not be applicable at all and they just remain one of those “oh, it’s just me then is it?” things.
They are not based on any particular psychological theory but obviously if anybody can see that they are, I’d be happy to hear from you.
Developing your story
Grief is a very funny thing. “Funny peculiar” rather than “funny ha ha” as my Nan used to say.
At first when somebody close to you dies, you just can’t talk about it at all. But gradually as time goes on you can find that you are able to. With practice, you can get better at it, perhaps reaching a stage where you can talk about it at some length without crying.
He’s handling it so well!
You start to develop a story about the person and their death and you can tell it seemingly quite calmly without any sign of your emotions taking over, even, at times, adding some funny elements to it.
This can reassure your friends who start to say things like: “Well I think he’s starting to get over it”, or “it’s amazing how he seems to be coming to terms with it”, or “the way you are handling this is truly inspirational.
You can start to believe it yourself seeing it as an indication that you are processing the grief and moving on with your life.
Don’t get me wrong, it is a very necessary part of the grieving process but for me it is a starting point. It is paving the way for the next stage, which is when you start to feel it.
The next stage
This stage can take many years to start and for some it never does, but it is when you move away from “telling the story” to “feeling the feelings” of your loss.
Quite often when people start to do this, they say things like: “I really thought I had dealt with this”, or “I have talked about this a lot in therapy and I really thought I was over it”, or “but this happened over 20 years ago!”
Both of these stages are important.
“The talking stage” is often easier to do and allows us potentially to build up to “the feeling stage.”
Many find it difficult to know what to say to somebody who has just been bereaved. It is difficult and it might be useful just to bear in mind that allowing the person to start the talking stage can be very comforting and healing for them.
Feeling it can be overwhelming
This “feeling it” stage can be overwhelming because they are difficult feelings to acknowledge and it is hard.
Moreover, we are frustrated because we think that we have dealt with it and even annoyed because we feel that we are going backwards.
It is also very hard to do on your own and this of course is where talking to a very good friend or a therapist can be beneficial.