|Photo Courtesy of www.lds.org.|
Next month will make 13 years since Decker's passing, and yet death still stings me. Not only Decker's death, but that of others, regardless of whether I know them personally or not.
This past Tuesday was the memorial for 19 Hot Shots who perished on Yarnell Hill on June 30th. It was difficult to watch on many levels for me personally, not to mention seeing the grief on the faces of the widows and families of these brave men. After the memorial, it was time for the men to be returned to their families and to their final resting places with private funeral services.
Their deaths are still fresh on a lot of people's minds, however down the road many will move on while the widows and families can feel they are still stuck in their grieving. This is normal to feel.
I've read a lot of books on grieving since Decker died, a lot of magazine articles, but the one I'm linking on here said so much to me, I wanted to share it with you. There are naysayers who claim to have "debunked" the stages by saying we all grieve in our own way. Yes, to some extent that is true, however to deny some of these stages could cause problems down the road. I'm not an expert, but I am someone who has walked down this path.
Dealing With Death and Dying from the February 1976 Ensign.
Grieving comes in multiple stages (some say 4 others say 5 stages), and there are no time limits as to how long each stage could or should last. Some, particularly the anger stage, will often be repeated over the coming years.
1. The first stage is labeled Denial. At first you can't believe the deceased is gone, you feel like they will walk through the door at any minute. It's coupled with a numbness where sometimes giving any kind of reaction is hard to come by, your mind is having a hard time comprehending what has happened.
Here are a few things I will tell you about this time. First of all, since you are feeling numb, it might also mask other physical ailments. Be sure to have a check up at the hospital (or at your personal physician later). Particularly with the blood pressure. Mine was near stroke levels and it went unchecked for a week, which was not good and produced other problems for me down the road.
If you are LDS, get repeated blessings, as you feel you need them. You'll need one right away when the news comes, you'll need even more as you progress through the grieving process. Seek the strength and advice from God, He can help you in ways you cannot comprehend.
2. The second stage is Anger. The anger is not only directed towards the deceased but also toward God. This brings on guilt and remorse for the feelings. While repentance is still necessary, also remember the Savior's atonement. It also covered the effects of grieving. More blessings should be sought, as well as the blessings of the Temple. These can help provide the strength, along with reminding you of the "big picture" of the Plan of Salvation.
It's also helpful to keep in mind that while you are experiencing changes in your life, there is also somewhat of an adjustment being felt by the one on the other side of the veil. If the death was sudden, (as was in Decker's case) their life, goals, dreams have just changed as well.
3. The third stage is Bargaining. I didn't experience this quite as much, to be honest. I think part of the reason for that is I was reading the book "Not My Will, But Thine" by Neal A. Maxwell. It's not because I happened to be reading the book when Decker died, but the morning I came home from the hospital I found I couldn't sleep. I didn't understand why at the time, but I was drawn to the book that morning, and it helped me with my grieving. It allows for you to let go of the need to feel in control of everything, because that's a lie that death exposes. You aren't in control of everything. But the One who is, is also there to help you through it.
4. Depression. This is the most dangerous stage of grieving, and can also last the longest. It can also trigger a clinical depression, where professional help is needed. Again, blessings help a great deal in this as well. I call it the most dangerous, as this can be the area where thoughts of suicide can occur. Widowed men and women rank among the highest in suicide rates, so this is not something to shrug off. If you have a widow buddy, (someone who has been widowed for at least 1 year and is willing to help you through the stages) keep in constant contact with them. Make sure you are taking care of yourself with proper food and getting out of the home.
5. Acceptance. This is where you want to head, where you no longer feel stuck, but instead feel you are in a position to move forward with your life. Blessings are needed less frequently and the Temple is more welcoming and less painful.
So, where do you go from here? This was a question I asked a dear friend as she was taking me home from the hospital. Her answer was spot on: baby steps.
Baby steps don't all occur at once. Baby steps require a process.
For me, baby steps started with reading both of our Patriarchal Blessings. I read his and prayed to find out why things happened as they did. It required repeated reading and repeated prayer, but I received the answers the Lord knew that I needed.
I continue to read mine, even 13 years later, as I am, in some ways, still taking those baby steps. I will tell you one thing, though, once you are on the same track as what the Lord has in store for you, you will be amazed at what follows. In a good way.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the , thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
For those who are assisting those who are grieving:
Patience - have patience while they go through their own version of this process.
Forgiveness - sometimes things may not be going as well as they seem, but also be aware of the signs if things are going too extreme, particularly with the depression.
Friendship - don't bail on a friend during the grieving process. Is discussion with the bereaved awkward sometimes? Yes. But shunning them will make things far worse and could destroy a wonderful friendship.
Confidentiality - I cannot overstate this one. As a widow, I became the favorite subject of gossip, and it has destroyed a lot of trust over the years. Keep in mind that we all have lives where, in some form or another, not everything has turned out as planned.