This week is Skylight Trust’s Grief and Loss Week. Mary Potter Hospice works closely with Skylight, an organisation that provides support to New Zealanders who are navigating tough times in their lives. We’ll be sharing a thought each day to open up conversations about grief and loss.
Loss and grief affects everyone
Everyone faces some kind of loss and grief during their lifetime. Our cultural background, gender, sexual orientation, age, social class, disability, family background and community, do not give us an exemption.
“Mr X had recently lost his wife and was coming to terms with life without her. At her burial he had seen a blackbird perched in a nearby tree, overlooking the ceremony. He believed he could feel his wife’s presence. He told us that for Māori the blackbird is significant as it is thought ‘they carry our souls to heaven’. The bird looked at him and did not seem afraid. He believed that his wife’s soul now lived on in this bird. This belief clearly gave him comfort.” – Medical Student
The blackbird painting was created by a Medical Student who interviewed a patient as part of their palliative care module.
Grief has no timetable
One common myth about grief is that you ‘get over’ grief or that you ‘move on’. However there is no set time for grieving. You move forward and keep living with your grief but you may be affected by the loss of someone special throughout your whole life. Grief can feel like a roller coaster at times – there are ups, downs, sudden stops and loops. There may be triggers that affect someone who is grieving in the coming weeks, months and years after a death.
Grief can be the elephant in the room
We are often afraid to mention the person’s name who has died. We think we will upset our friend, or family member, or colleague, but it is generally the opposite. By saying their name, remembering them and talking about them, you are helping to share your love and affection for that person.
Excerpt from Elephant in the Room by Terry Kettering
There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.
Yet we squeeze by with, “How are you?” and “I’m fine,” and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter. We talk about the weather. We talk about work.
We talk about everything else, except the elephant in the room.
For if we talk about his (her) death, perhaps we can talk about his (her) life.
Can I say his (her) name to you and not have you look away?
For if I cannot, then you are leaving me….
in a room….
with an elephant.
Grief can look like many things
Grieving people may often hide their grief from others. They may look alright, they may be smiling, they may be going to work, but deep inside they could be struggling and need your support and understanding. Remember to reach out and check in with someone who is grieving.