THE INTIMACY OF DEATH
(The Pain of Grief)
By Reydon Stanford
When I was six years old I watched in horror as our family dog ran across the street into the path
of an oncoming car. The dog died violently and instantly. Having never witnessed a death of any kind, to that point in my
life, it was a traumatic experience and one that caused me to make a vow to myself, that I would never love another dog because
the pain was just too great. I held to that promise for many years.
In the past ten years I've
had to say goodbye to my mother, a sister and my father, not to mention several close family and friends. Each one of these
deaths has affected me differently, usually based upon the level of emotional intimacy I held for each one. They were all
painful losses, losses that I still grieve from time to time for no apparent reason except that they are worth grieving.
As a firm believer in Heaven and Eternal Life, I do find comfort in knowing that my loved-ones are
living on in a place that I will one day travel to myself, where there will be a great reuniting and where death no longer
threatens us with parting. Still, in the mean-time, I am left with waiting and clinging to the memories and the love that
I continue to feel for them. I think most of you could understand those feelings.
we love to death is one of the most heart-breaking, life-altering experiences we have as humans, yet if we live long enough,
it is a certainty. Experiencing the death of a loved-one causes our minds to become overwhelmed with enormously painful feelings
of great loss, helplessness, loneliness and fear. Even if the death was expected, due to a lengthy or terminal illness, we
still find ourselves in great pain as we adjust to the realization that we will not see that person again...as long as WE
Death, under normal circumstances is difficult enough for us to cope with, (both mentally
and emotionally), but it can feel unbearable when death is sudden and the result of a tragic accident, a violent crime, a
sudden illness or suicide. It also should be said that most people who lose children to death, report this to be the greatest
loss of their lives, unlike anything else they have suffered.
So what causes us such enormous
pain when someone we love dies? That is a very difficult question to answer in simple terms because the dynamics are so vast.
As human-beings we thrive through our involvement in relationships. Relationships help us to become who we are, help us define
where we belong, how we think, what we believe and what we find comfort in.
To love and be loved
is the cry of the human heart and when we lose someone we love through death, the loss is great because it affects us deeply,
on an intimate level. In other words, it is very ‘close' to us and deeply personal. When our mind registers a loss on
such a great scale as death, our emotions follow suit with painful thinking and unbearable feelings.
you've experienced the death of someone very close to you, you may wonder if you will ever feel ‘normal' again. Although
I do believe, with time, the pain associated with the loss becomes much more bearable, I do not believe we are ever the ‘same'
again. The loss is usually too tragic for that. I also believe that it's okay that such a loss changes us. Not only is the
loss too great for us to simply return to ‘normal,' but we oftentimes realize that our continued grief for someone we've
loved and lost is a fitting memorial to them and to our love. In many ways, grief reveals our own ability to love greatly.
If we didn't love...we wouldn't grieve.
Please don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying that a
person should lie down and grieve themselves to death following a painful loss, or that they shouldn't make steady progress
toward resuming their own life. I'm merely saying that feeling grief is a result of loving someone so much, and that is very
WHEN GRIEVING BECOMES DANGEROUS
Although it is normal to experience great amounts of grief, following the
death of someone close to us, it is also normal for grief to run it's main course, allowing us to return to our own life for
the sake of those who still remain around us and depend upon us. If the pain of your grief is still very fresh, even though
much time has passed since your loss, I recommend that you find a good counselor who can help you understand your emotions
and the effects they are having on you.
In some cases, finding an end to grief is difficult because
the person who remains tends to blame their self for the loss. It's actually quite common for some people to take the blame
for another's death, thinking thoughts such as: "I could've done more, I could've said more, I was so selfish and blind!"
This type of thinking is usually delusional and is rarely grounded in the truth. No matter how prepared we might feel, the
death of someone we intimately love is a tragedy and often catches us completely unable to cope...at least initially. Tears
and days of sadness are normal. They honor your love. They are not a sign of weakness.
I encourage you to become proactive in memorializing your loved-one, rather than simply leaving it internal. Although there
are aspects of your relationship that you will want to keep private, finding a way to publicly memorialize your loved-one
can help you find a positive way to experience your memories and grief. It also adds to the memory of the life that you've
Copyright by Reydon Stanford 2010