It’s MY grief … It’s MY rules! There is something extremely empowering about proclaiming and living by those words. Over the years I have shared this message with tens of thousands of grievers on the importance of being as proactive as possible on your grief journey. When we strongly hold the position that nobody understands our loss and the unique relationship of that loss more that we ourselves do, we learn to trust our instincts and make choices that help find the best possible path for us. Each night when I speak and play out here on the road, I let people know emphatically that there is only one expert on their grief in the room tonight … and that expert is the person sitting in your chair.
For most of us, the world as we knew it before our loss is filled with a cast of characters who love and care about us, but who are as unprepared as we are about how to help us grieve the loss of someone we love so dearly. Unfortunately, it is often up to us to lead the way in educating others about what it is that we need. When we are timid and can’t communicate what we need from others, we are often subjected to a lack of support in addition to ill-timed and ignorant comments from those closest to us.
Looking back, I can see when friends insisted I needed to “move forward” after just 2 months of grief, they simply thought they were being encouraging. When other friends encouraged me to lean on God and not my own understanding … they too meant well, but their words were crushing. One of the most common complaints I hear from those in grief are related to the insensitive and just downright silly things people say to the newly bereaved. I have learned if there is one thing you can ABSOLUTELY count on in your grief, it is that people WILL say things that make you want to punch them.
I consider myself to be a very fortunate griever as I was given very good grief information early on. Shortly after my daughter Ashley died in August of 2001, I became part of a grief program that enlightened me as to what would lie ahead on the journey and equipped me with tools to help navigate my way. I was still frozen solid in my early grief when I began to tell people unequivocally “I was put on this earth to be Ashley’s daddy for as long as I live, not for as long as she lived … and I take that responsibility seriously.”
Within months of my loss, I began telling family and friends; “don’t invite me to any event, unless Ashley is invited!” I made it clear I will not show up to any function and timidly pretend that she doesn’t exist inside of my heart. I let people know that if they were uncomfortable talking about “all” of my children equally, I understand … I gave them an “out” by giving permission to not extend an invitation to me if my grief was going to spoil their party. With that being said, I didn’t shove Ashley or my grief in their faces … I didn’t show up in an Ashley shirt and hat, butterfly socks, etc. … I just needed to know it was Okay to talk about her.
One of the best tools in ensuring that I made and enforced my own grief rules was to understand how important my own words could be. I learned that I could set the tone for others simply by the language I would use. An example of this is; You will NEVER, EVER hear me say I HAD a daughter and her name WAS Ashley … OH NO, I HAVE a daughter and her name IS Ashley! I show through my words and actions that I consider it my responsibility every day to continue Ashley’s legacy … to be her voice, her feet, her hands. If the world is to continue knowing about her, it is up to me to keep her name out there.
Our love did not die for those we love, just because they died. It is alive and fully active inside of us. Our healing depends on us continuing to express that love for the rest of our lives. We live in a world wanting us to get over it … for us this is not possible as getting over it means the love would die. So, living a life bereaved means we must be the captain of our own grief ship and steer it to where it brings us the most healing. Every grief journey needs a leader, if you have been shy in the past … I hope you step up and let the world know emphatically; It is MY grief – It is MY rules. May love guide all that you do. ❤️🦋❤️
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