+ Rev. Dr. Kathryn Skoglund, Synod Minister
Memorial Day, at one time called Decoration Day is a holiday when we remember and honor all those military personnel who have died in the line of duty. We gather at cemeteries to place flags and flowers at the graves of the beloved dead, civic leaders give speeches honoring the sacrifices of women and men made for the sake of freedom, and band play patriotic songs. As we wander among the headstones, we also remember others in our lives whom we have loved and who have also died. Despite the somber nature of the occasion there is a celebratory feel to the day that we look forward to every year.
However, amid the reality of the coronavirus we know that we will have to hold those gatherings of remembrance differently if we are able hold them at all. For many of us, this will bring a deep sense of loss among all the other losses we have been experiencing these last few months. Every new loss reminds us of previous losses, and it may be difficult to understand why it seems that suddenly grief lays so heavily on our shoulders.
Grief is a part of life, and to process your grief it is helpful to remember the following concepts:
Grief Work: You may have heard the phrase grief work before to describe the act of processing your grief, and it is a very apt description. Grieving is emotionally and physically draining. It is probably the hardest work you will ever do, but it is necessary to the recovery process. Not allowing yourself to grieve is also very hard work, maybe even more so, because you are constantly trying to keep those emotions in check and that cannot be done forever. Eventually all those feelings will have to come out. Imagine trying to hold a beach ball underwater. At some point your arms will get tired, you will let go, and the ball will explosively come to the surface. If you have to do the hard work of grief, it is better to do it in a healthy way.
Experiencing Grief: Everyone experiences loss in their lives, and with loss comes grief. There is no way over, under, or around your grief. Even though grief hurts desperately you must go through it.
Feelings: When you are grieving you will experience many different feelings; sadness, confusion, anxiety, and anger. They are all normal. Remember feelings are not bad or wrong, they are just feelings. Don’t deny your feelings, just accept that they are there and decide how to deal with them.
Unresolved Grief: the grief process is important for emotional and physical health. Unresolved grief can lead to numerous illnesses: headaches, ulcers, skin problems, heart problems, depression, addiction.
Major Decisions: It is important not to make any major decisions while you are grieving. If at all possible, wait until you are better able to do so. Decisions you make early in your grief may be ones that you regret later, when you are thinking more clearly. If something must be decided immediately, ask a trusted friend or family member for advice.
Talking: Talking is therapy. Although no one else will understand your grief completely it helps to talk about it. You can also journal or write prayers of lament to allow yourself to express everything you are experiencing. Just getting it out can make a difference.
Timeline: There is no set timeline for grief. It takes as long as it takes. Everyone grieves differently and everyone recovers differently. Grief is not straight forward, going from point A to B to C until you get to the end. It is more like a horizontal spiral. It can feel like you are taking two steps forward, then one step back. You will have good days and bad day, but eventually you will get to a place of healing.
Be gentle with yourself. Cry when you have to, laugh when you can. Get plenty of rest, eat well, exercise, and remember, you aren’t going crazy. You’re grieving.