July is Bereaved Parents Awareness month. On the heels of Mental Health Awareness Month, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Memorial Day, it can sometimes feel like there is always a reminder of our grief. We hope that each day or month of awareness is another opportunity for us to recognize and honor our grief and for others to learn more about grief and support those who are grieving. Sometimes though, it might seem like pressure to do or feel something specific and it is just as appropriate to let these days pass by. For this month, I simply want to remind you of your rights as a grieving individual in all circumstances, 365 days a year. This list is adapted from Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, the Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition.
MY GRIEF RIGHTS
- You have the right to experience your own unique grief
No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do.
- You have the right to talk about your grief
Talking about your grief will help you process. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much and as often as you want about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.
- You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions
Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.
- You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits
Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. Do not allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.
- You have the right to experience “griefbursts”
Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is expected and natural.
- You have the right to make use of ritual
The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn.
- You have the right to embrace your spirituality
If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs and help you process any anger or loss of faith related to your loss.
- You have the right to search for meaning
You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. Avoid clichéd responses like, “It was God’s will.” Instead consider putting your energy into “making meaning” through honoring their memory – if that feels right for your grief experience
- You have the right to treasure your memories
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone we love. Allow yourself to remember both happy and more difficult times and find others with whom you can share them.
- You have the right to move through your grief and heal
Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient, tolerant, and kind to yourself. You should always remember that the loss of someone you love changes your life forever.