When Life Makes an Unexpected Turn….in the Wrong Direction

The day to day life seems hard. There are continuous worries about our family, work, and finances, stress imposed by unexpected delays in traffic and long lines at the grocery store. Children are put to bed after several final goodnight super squeezes and hugs. Then, the body falls into a chair waiting for the peace of sleep and the prayers for a better day to be answered. In a snap of a finger, the reality can be significantly worse. Tragedy strikes unexpectedly, and for some, the life that was known is gone. Many of us have a heartbreaking story to tell. We are grievers of spouses, siblings, or our child. So often it is said, “I couldn’t understand your words or your feelings until I stood in your shoes.” Sadly, those who grieve lose more than just a loved one. We are forever changed, and marked by grief. While support is strong, many who once were close family and friends grow distant and then silent. The will to be strong is based largely on the support of family, friends, family pets, a church congregation, and even a word a stranger can offer.


Support and an outpouring of love works in very surprising ways. Each of us could say with 100% belief that we would be supported if a tragic event occurred to our family. Personally, I can remember a friend saying, “At Finn’s funeral, you were surrounded by so many family members. I thought you were part of a big family and had great support.” What may be perceived is not always the reality. After the funeral and weeks and months beyond, grievers immediately know who is supportive. The term “incongruent grief” affects a surprisingly high percentage of families. It occurs when family members who cannot handle their own grief directly blame those who carry the heaviest burden.   It is best to allow time and separation to heal the hearts of unsupportive family members and to be surrounded by those who “can” handle pain. Grievers will discover many individuals will carry the weight of your loss and remain supportive. These individuals are clinically termed “secondary grievers.” It is comforting to find friends who can be empathetic and stand beside you. Every day will bring a new difficulty, a new struggle; therefore, grievers will focus their efforts on those who are listeners and not problem solvers or those that diminish the grieving process.


Communication is challenging in a household impacted by tragedy. Every person experiences the loss and grief differently. Two very different roads may be taken to arrive at the same place. Some may want to sleep and never leave their beds, while others will hide their feelings and cry in isolation. When a lack of communication and feelings of darkness tumble into depression, decisions are made such as committing suicide, taking addictive medications, drinking alcohol to dull the pain, or engaging in violent arguments. The pain often begins with triggers – great vivid memories of the accident or the person. They arrive suddenly and without warning. No matter the part in the death of a loved one, grievers hold themselves personally accountable. The best solution is to seek counseling immediately. Rather than call counselors, contact your local hospice office. Their counselors are trained to assist individuals, couples, and children as young as four. In lieu of addictive prescriptions, try taking vitamins B and D, and fish oil, daily to assist with stress, anxiety and depression.   In time, families can survive the statistic of greater loss or divorce, and grow stronger together.

A Page of Life Turns

Grief feels like a book of sadness and despair that surely will end, eventually. However, as the leading role in your own story, the pages of life continue on through events, holidays, anniversaries, and seasons. Time will not make it better or dull the pain. As grievers, our days must be survived. Every day is a challenging road. Books on grief, meeting others in support groups, walking or taking a yoga class are helpful when you are ready. As a one year griever, there is pain in knowing someone else is about to start their journey in this dismal club; however, we are not alone. In time, our words and ability to listen can help others survive.