I recently shared five days with my (adult) daughter who flew from across the country to attend her Father’s funeral here in Ontario.
I’m a “live in the now” person, but of course, going through old photos to give to my daughter, and then seeing people at the funeral that I haven’t seen in 20 years (since the divorce; naturally some people “took his side”….I’m not mad about that….it’s human nature) stirred up old memories and buried feelings.
Couple that with the grief I felt for my daughter losing her Dad too early in life, for his family overseas who couldn’t attend the funeral, and for the sad fact that he didn’t realize how many people really cared for him, well, of course, it was bound to make my heart heavy with sadness.
Having spent these past few days with my daughter, observing how she interacts with my Mother, and with her cousins and Aunty, listening to how wise she is for someone who just turned 30 not long ago AND is also well-balanced with not only wisdom (she got that from her Maternal side) but she still has that wonderful playful nature (she got that from her Dad) and a quick witted sense of humor (she got that from her Teta–Croatian for “Aunty”)….well, my heart swelled with pride and happiness.
And you know what? That’s LIFE. Your heart WILL get heavy with sadness, but it WILL also swell with happiness!
Prior to this visit, I hadn’t seen my daughter in two years. I don’t know for sure when I’ll see her again. Ideally, I’ll be hugging her again no later than Spring 2022, but if COVID has taught me nothing else, it’s shown me that life is very unpredictable, so although we can (and should) have hopes for the future, we need to accept the set-backs and changes of plans that come along the way.
With that said, I’d like to share five gentle reminders…..in the hopes that you’ll find some value in this, and maybe the rest of 2021, and onward, will feel like a lighter load on your shoulders.
1. Take nobody for granted.
Be patient with your loved ones, especially the senior ones…you don’t know when will be the last time you see that person…..don’t make your last interaction with them an unpleasant one.
I never really had grandparents. My Dad’s parents were killed in WWII. My Mother’s Mother died in a bus accident when I was five years old. My Mother’s Father I remember in bits and pieces because I only saw him every five years when we (Mom, Dad, my sister and I) would go to Croatia to visit family. He passed away when I was about 19 or 20.
So when my daughter was very, very little, I told her, “Always be nice to Baka (that’s Grandmother in Croatian) because you are VERY lucky to HAVE a Baka”. And she took that advice. It’s been one of the most heart-warming things, as a Mother, to watch my daughter and my Mother BE.
2. Stay in close contact with those who matter most to you.
These days, there are sooooo many ways to stay in touch with others….there is NO good reason why you should lose contact with a loved one. None.
You might be saying, “Yeah ok, but Life gets in the way“….no, it doesn’t LIFE is LIFE. You only have ONE Life (right now…..I’m not talking about the afterlife, reincarnation, etc). It takes two seconds to send a text or message someone. It takes five minutes to make a phone call to check-in with someone.
You also might be saying, “Why should I be the first one to reach out?” Why? Because that other person might be thinking the same thing….where does that leave both of you? Possibly feeling hurt, or resentful? You know the simple fix to that? Swallow your pride. Set your ego aside. And reach out.
If you’re more of a private person and don’t like to share your troubles with others, that’s cool, I get that, take time to work things out on your own, but don’t withdraw from people who care about you.
And even more importantly, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, or like you just simply cannot cope mentally and emotionally with something any longer….reach out for help. There are so many resources “out there”. Unbiased and non-judgmental groups and organizations are “out there”. There is NO shame in asking for help!
3. Tell them you love them. TELL them.
It’s easy to assume. But you know what they say…. when you assume, you make an ass, out of u and me.
Don’t assume that someone knows you love them….and even if they DO know you love them, it won’t hurt anyone for you to tell them and for them to hear it.
There are many many kinds of love….in fact, I believe no two are alike….so when you love someone, tell them…..it might be the only three words they really need to hear in that moment.
4. Bend. But don’t break.
When I was younger, I was very stubborn (ok, yes, I’m an Aries) and only saw things in black and white, “right” and “wrong”.
With the passage of many years and the life lessons that have come along the way, I’ve learned that it’s better to bend….otherwise, you’ll break.
You won’t physically break, but your spirit will break.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe it, gosh no, not at all! I’m just saying, don’t let the argument get the better of you.
5. Don’t judge.
It’s human nature to have an opinion, and you’re entitled to your opinion, but before you point a finger at someone and say, “You should be doing it this way” or “Don’t feel like that!” or something along those lines, look at your hand and notice that when you’re pointing a finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you.
None of us are perfect, some may think they are, but they aren’t. Comparing yourself to those people who think they’re perfect is not serving you well. Sure, it’s great to have mentors and people you look up to and admire, but just be careful who you choose to be that mentor, or that person you look up to.
NOBODY has the right to tell you how you should or shouldn’t FEEL.
Rest his soul, I loved my Dad with all my heart, but when I was a little girl, he used to tell me to “Stop crying!”. And that hurt me more than if he’d slapped me (I’m NOT condoning slapping) because when he said that to me, to ME that sounded like he was saying, “Stop being you”….because I cry….I cry when I’m happy….I cry when I’m sad….I cry when I’m frustrated….I cry when I’m laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. I’m an emotional person, plain and simple.
When I was married, and my husband and I were having a disagreement about something, he’d fire at me, “Why do you have to be like that?!” Why? Because I AM like that.
We all handle things at our level of consciousness, so if you’re having a disagreement with someone, keep in mind, they are looking at things from their level of consciousness, just as you are.
We all have different perceptions, and have lived different lives, so how we react to a given situation, is going to differ from person to person.
So please don’t be judgmental. Work on your own self before you try and “fix” someone else. Be kind. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone is working through things in their own way. If they ask for help, be gentle, because maybe asking for help was very difficult for them.
Losing a loved one doesn’t just disrupt a person’s life—it changes it forever. There are various ways to support someone who is going through this difficult experience.
Be a good listener. Sometimes the best thing you can offer to someone who is grieving is to listen.
Respect the person’s way of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Everyone grieves in his or her own way.
Accept mood swings. Be aware that a grieving person will have emotional ups and downs. Grief is often described as an emotional roller coaster.
Avoid giving advice. Let the person know that you recognize how great his or her loss is. For example, you might say, “This must be a difficult time for you,” or “How painful this must be for you and your family.”
Refrain from trying to explain the loss. Avoid saying things like “Your loved one is in a better place,” “It is God’s will,” or “At least she or he is no longer suffering.” Listening is more helpful.
Help out with practical tasks. Offer assistance with specific tasks you are in a position to help with, rather than saying, “Let me know if there’s something I can help you with“. A bereaved person may be glad to have help with activities like grocery shopping, preparing meals, making phone calls, doing laundry, babysitting and so on.
Stay connected and available. There is no timetable for grief. People who are grieving need time to heal, so be patient. Let the bereaved person know that you will check in often. Even if he or she is not yet ready to talk or to be around others, simply knowing you’re there can be very comforting.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with mental health issues, and/or is thinking of suicide, PLEASE reach out for help!
If you’re in Canada:
Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 pm to 12 am ET).
Kids Help Phone:Call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868.
Available 24 hours a day to Canadians aged 5 to 29 who want confidential and anonymous care from professional counselors.
Hope For Wellness Helpline:
Available to all Indigenous peoples across Canada who need immediate crisis intervention. Experienced and culturally sensitive help line counsellors can help if you want to talk or are distressed.
Telephone and online counselling are available in English and French. On request, telephone counselling is also available in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.
Call 1-855-242-3310 (toll-free)
If you live outside of Canada, please seek help. Whatever you’re going through, you don’t have to go through it alone.