#25 What to expect when a loved one dies
Lists help me get clear
Dear Lovely You,
this week I started to edit the grief book I wrote a few years ago. True to form it really is a shitty first draft. There is still a lot of work to do before this book can be birthed. I couldn’t remember before I opened it how much of it is self-help based and how much is memoir but to my satisfaction most of it is self-help with parts of my story shared along the way.
Lists are playing a big part in my life at the moment as I try to keep on top of all the things that need to get done. I have been feeling a little (read as VERY) resentful of those things. Quite a grumpy guts in fact. Too many have tos getting in the way of what I really want to be doing (reading, walking, painting, writing, resting, listening to music, a trip to the sea…). And I have been putting off visits to relatives until my husband is more recovered from his back operation which went very well. We can’t risk him coughing, sneezing or vomitting though while he heals hence avoiding unnecessary contact.
We have a couple of windows that need painting so the carpenter can get them in before the winter comes. We need to get the chimney swept for the same reason. The light in the kitchen isn’t working since the carpenter put in the new door frame where the wires were hidden behind, so we need an electrician to do a pretty simple job but finding one is a mission in itself! The car needs taxing and various other mundane but necessary tasks that keep us all busy. As well as the usual day to day cooking, clearing up, cooking, clearing up and thinking about what to cook the following day…
Getting back to my writing, which I love, I came across another list in my grief book…
What to expect while you're grieving
Expect the unexpected
and expect things to be pretty normal
Waves of emotions
Laughter and tears
It lasts as long as it lasts
Lots of offers of support to begin with
Most people fairly quickly go back to their own lives
…in the expectation that you will be getting on with yours
Support from unexpected places
or no support at all
Those who know you best and care about you will continue to be there for you
You need to be able to ask for help
but find it impossible to know what you need help with
Sometimes you'll feel like you're going mad
Sometimes you'll feel like you're over it and could conquer a mountain
Followed by another day or weeks in which you are completely devastated
Anger, rage, disappointment, fear…
Moments of clarity about what's really important to you
Days of confusion and wondering what’s the point
Grieving is unique to every individual
Deciding to get on with your life
Deciding to wallow a bit more
Feeling completely alone even when you're surrounded by your loved ones
Your family and friends still need you too
Needing time and space on your own
Not noticing or ignoring the needs of others
A lot of things you usually do, won't get done
Not wanting sex or feeling confused or ashamed that you do
People will try to cheer you up and make you get on with your life before you're ready
And sometimes you need people like that
And it's your decision when you're ready
At some point, you will have had enough of crying and being miserable
You may feel guilty for not feeling miserable, as if you are being disloyal to your lost loved one
Many things will become meaningless (temporarily or permanently)
You may notice the things that are really meaningful to you for the first time
You may or may not have an epiphany
Other people suddenly become experts on grief even if they've never experienced it or haven’t experienced it in the way that you have
Some people will avoid you because they don't know what to say
Some people will avoid you because it's just too frightening for them
Don’t take it personally
You may be surprised to feel relieved in some ways
You may find your Faith or lose it
You may experience extreme tiredness and even physical pain
You may feel anger at the deceased
You may feel there's unfinished business
You may feel it's unfair
Your sleep pattern and ability to eat and digest may be disrupted
You may lose or put on weight
You may develop a ‘devil may care attitude‘ and take risks that you never have before
You may find yourself picking people back up after you have told them the news
and you might resent that
You may wonder why the world keeps turning when yours has stopped
People will say the wrong things at the wrong time
…and people will say the right things at the right time
or the right things at the wrong time
People will apologise for upsetting you when your are just relived that they are listening
Doing everyday mundane things can be comforting
or completely meaningless
all of the above and none of the above
and anything else you experience
What has been your experience of death? What have I missed?
I’m sure there is loads!
Reading back through this list I realised that this is life! These things don’t just happen when someone dies they happen throughout our lives. It just gets more conspicuous at times like this. And our perception of these things can help or hinder us. From this list I can see many needs that need to be met. Another book perhaps?
Anyway, back to lists…
Lists can be a useful way of recording things. Reminders of what needs to happen or what you would like to have happen. I used to be able to make a list then not need to refer back to it until everything got done. Just having written things down was enough. Nowadays that is not the case and I rely on them more and more, capturing a thought before it pops back out of my mind!
But this list was an important way for me to look at what can happen after a death and is helping me to construct the book. Everyone’s experience of grief is unique and the circumstances of the bereavement can make a big difference to how we perceive it and so can the reactions of those around us.
As I continue to edit and carve out the best bits I’ll share my progress here, from time to time, but I would love to hear from you if you have any advice for people grieving or for anyone supporting someone who is grieving.
What would you have liked to have happen yourself?
What could someone have done (or done differently) that would have helped you at the time?
From my True Self to Yours
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