Often when you have had a painful loss, it doesn’t feel like the grief will ever end. You might not even want it to end, fearful that if you begin to feel good again it might mean you don’t care anymore. Then you may also have friends and family further removed who are urging you to “get better” more quickly. Of course they are doing so because they care and don’t like seeing you hurt. All of this adds extra pressure and confusion. You must keep in mind that grief is a natural healing process. When a person is physically ill, a doctor cannot give you an exact timetable until you are healed. Grieving is the same. There is no preset, exact timetable for healing.
I write this during NCAA Tournament time which reminds me of the month of March 2007. It had been one year since my wife had been diagnosed with cancer and 2 1/2 months since she had passed away. The tournament was starting, my favorite sporting event of the year. My old friends were setting up their brackets and I joined them, but of course I couldn’t get excited about it this time. I was still in a mode of withdrawal and just doing the daily activities of survival for me and my kids. I filled out my bracket and entered it, but I didn’t really care. Now, nine years later, I am excited about it again. I filled out my bracket today with much joy and anticipation of coming out on top among my friends. The change didn’t happen quickly, for me it took about four years before my joy was fully restored, gradually increasing each year.
Basketball players are restricted by a time clock to reach their goal but you are not. Your goal is to stay in the game. You do have this in common with a basketball player: It is your goal to keep fighting. Healing doesn’t occur without effort. It helped me to have my kids, and my job. There was a reason to get out of bed everyday. I had to show my children how to keep living. I enrolled us in a family grieving program. I took them on family trips. I interacted with friends and family even when it was hard. I prayed with them even though I was angry at God. I even tried to find something to make us laugh every day. Those things did not always make us happy, and they certainly didn’t erase the pain of our loss, but they kept us in the game. Don’t try to put your healing on a timeline. Just do the things that make life worth living even when it still hurts. Find a someone who can help you process and understand your feelings and pain, and heal. In the amount of time that is right for you, a new beginning will begin to emerge. You will find a new beginning and a renewed happiness.
(With my daughter Jessica at the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Little Rock, 2008)