Grief is a universal human experience and all of us are
familiar with the feelings of pain and sadness following a loss. We read
about tragedies every day in the newspapers, see them on TV, hear about
misfortunes from friends or experience a loss of someone dear to us through
illness or old age. Our culture tends to encourage us to ignore death and
pain, and promotes the myth that we can all be young, beautiful and if
we live right, happy forever.
Many have read or heard of the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and other
experts on death and dying. Thus we are familiar with the stages of grief,
shock, denial, rage, despair, and finally acceptance. We may find reassurance
in the fact that the terrain has been studied, that there is a map on how
to travel the areas that need to be passed on the road to our destination.
For some the travel is made easier by a strong faith, by a sense of meaning
and purpose, and by the firm belief that they will need with absent loved
ones after death.
At different times many of us come into contact with grieving persons
at a funeral, memorial service or when visiting the bereaved. We offer
caring words, compassion, practical help and maybe even love, but then
we are finished and go on with our lives. I was thrust into the world of
senseless violence, grief and anguish with the sudden news of the murder
of my oldest child and only daughter. It began with utter shock and disbelief
and a slim hope that a mistake had been made. The shock and disbelief still
catch me at times, even though four years have passed. And of course a
terrible mistake was made; some cruel and misguided man ended the life
of a young woman, who loved life, people and animals. She picked up stray
puppies, loved children, had a radiant sunny smile and wanted to start
a camp for mentally retarded and disabled children. A part of me was killed
with her and I will never be the same again.
We all ask "why." We become acutely aware of our vulnerability. The
world suddenly becomes an unfair and dangerous place. Our sense of trust,
order, and the belief that should we live just and good life nothing bad
will happen to us, are shattered. However, it is important to remember
that we are all individuals, that our circumstances differ, as does the
length and pattern of our grief. What we can offer those who are grieving
is a caring acceptance of their special way of dealing with their anguish
and a willingness to listen.
"Give Sorrow Words" is the message of the self-support group Parents
of Murdered Children. Healing can be facilitated by telling one's story
again and again and by allowing oneself to experience pain, rage and despair.
Most of us do not realize our own strengths and ability to cope. The resiliency
and power of the human spirit are awesome. When I come into contact with
families whose child has been murdered and experience the compassion and
caring within the group, my faith in the human spirit is restored. Survivors
of the murder of a child, spouse, or friend have a great deal to offer
one another and often can be of more help than the clergy or mental health
I would say that probably the most important element that can help us
in our grieving is that we treat ourselves with great kindness and that
we do not set up unfair expectations of ourselves. Length of time, intensity
of sorrow, may be different for each of us. The different stages of grief
follow no rigid order and we need to give ourselves permission to experience
our anguish in our own time, without deadlines or hurtful judgements.
As we live through unimaginable heartbreak and sadness, it is a time
for gentleness; it is a time to forgive ourselves, our anger and self-centeredness;
it is a time to allow ourselves to weep, as long and as often as we wish.
It is important not to allow society in general, our friends, mental
health professionals, or the clergy in particular, to pressure us into
getting on with the business of living and thus shortening or suppressing
our grieving. Well-meaning people who expect the bereaved to become quickly
functional, smiling and cheerful again, may do incredible harm and will
certainly increase the feelings of loneliness, hurt and alienation already
It is important to grieve, to experience the pain, to weep and to acknowledge
the impact of our loss. To allow ourselves to grieve is healing in the
long run. It enables us to put our lives together again as best we can
under the circumstances.
© 1989 Nancy K. Ruhe
Taken from the POMC web page.
The meaning I guess is clear and I wonder how many agree with me.
During the first year of grief, all I could do was cry and scream.
I could not accept this had happened to my son and our family. During
the first year, people were concerned and talked about Phillip and what
had happened and when would we get justice. But after the first year,
it seemed all the concerned people were gone. No one asked anymore
about my son nor did they want me to talk about him. It made them
uneasy. This is when I learned to cry and scream inside. The
only true people who understand are the people that are traveling the same
road of grief and to my sadness this road seems to be getting more crowded.
I do not know what this 3rd year of grief will bring for us, hopefully
we will see some justice for Phillip’s murder I believe this will have
to happen before we can start healing. I continue to keep my son’s
name alive in every way I can. I find if I can work on projects that
are in memory of Phillip or any project concerning Phillip it helps me
keep making it one more day. If you have tips on “Ways of Coping”,
I would love to hear them.