I am not sure if this an indication of my growing older or the pandemic state of affairs or both. There have been a great deal of people in my life who have passed away lately. As an estate planning and administration professional, I work with many people who are walking through the experience of losing people to death. I advise people consistently about the reality that we have no idea how someone will handle the grief experience.
As a firm, we experience people calling us on the day of or the day immediately after a person he or she loved has passed away. Our first response after sharing condolences is to say that the first step is typically not taking legal action. Of course, there are times when it is necessary to call law enforcement if there is a question or information the authorities need to have. However, planning for probate is not the first step. The transition of things comes after taking the emotional step of experiencing the loss.
I am not an expert in grief counseling. I have spent very little time exploring the psychology or sociology of grief. But as a woman who has lost a parent and a child and a professional who works with people who are grieving, I want to share a bit from my place of humanity.
Please allow the time to feel the loss. I am a person who tried to intellectualize the loss when my mother passed away. I tried to work through the loss. I tell you that doesn’t work. Being productive may deflect the emotion but it cannot be put off forever. Many of us have heard of the five stages of grief – denial, bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance. Yet, the labels don’t share how the stages will affect the person experiencing the grief. Nor do we know how long each stage will last.
The experience of grief is not a linear continuum but more like a roller coaster where there are highs and lows. I encourage people to not impose expectations or standards on what anyone’s grief will look like. There are folks who will cry a lot, a little or not at all. The number of tears shed do reflect the pain that is experienced.
The formalities and traditions that we employ help process the pain and the grief that we experience. Many times I work with people who make the decision to not have any formal gathering or service such as a funeral. The pandemic has also limited the ability to have the gathering for funerals or life celebrations. This absence may prolong the denial period.
I encourage planners to be thoughtful about the surviving loved ones and realize the loss that is experienced collectively often provides comfort for those left behind. I know that it is often challenging with family and interpersonal dynamics in planning for the end of life celebration. Yet, the confusion that we experience as a culture in struggling with our mortality can be overwhelming for many.
Grief is not to be avoided or prevented as we are blessed to share our lives with loved ones. I encourage people to celebrate the life and love that we share and appreciate each and every moment that is a blessing. We are not to be independent but interdependent. We are indeed better together.