Reaching Out to Others
Author: Darcie Sims
Grief can be so isolating.
We may find ourselves exhausted beyond our capabilities, hurt beyond endurance, and lonely beyond belief. No one seems to know what to say or how to behave around us. Many of us have discovered we are grieving not just the death of our loved one, but the loss of friendships, self-esteem, and self-identity as well.
When our loved one died, we were surrounded by people, but the silence was deafening. Hardly anyone spoke. Maybe they were afraid that death was contagious or maybe they just didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to hear, either. As the months passed, it just grew darker and I began to wonder if we would ever know peace, hope, or love again.
Life, as we knew it, planned it, and dreamed it was gone. My days were filled with emptiness rather than the activities I had anticipated. I found myself unable to concentrate long enough to read or to watch a favorite TV program. I couldn’t remember anything, and I began to think I had not only lost my dearest love, but my sanity as well.
I couldn’t imagine living very long and even began to pray for some type of relief. The pain was understandable. The silence, however, was unbearable.
Eventually, I managed to leave the house and then I began to run—as fast and as far as I could. I believed that if I kept busy, the grief wouldn’t overwhelm me. I thought I could run away from the hurt, the pain, the awful silence. (I even tried joining the circus, but they told me I cried too much.) No one understood the depths of my pain, or so I thought.
Life became something to be endured. The days and months began to accumulate, all jumbled together in an endless, faceless stream of time spent. Nothing mattered anymore. I didn’t care about the seasons, the news, the weather, what I ate, what I wore, who I lived with, or who I loved. Life had been reduced to blanks and I had nothing to fill them in with.
But one afternoon, I happened to be listening to a friend recount her troubles when I found myself thinking how nice it would be if someone would just listen to me. So, I began to really listen to her and for the next few hours, I found myself immersed in her life, not mine. My own trials and tribulations took a back seat to her needs, and as she left, she hugged me and thanked me for being so kind. She said she felt so much better, what a magic touch I had. Magic touch? Hardly! I hadn’t even touched her until we hugged good-bye. All I had done was listen.
I discovered something that afternoon. I not only discovered how simple it is to listen, but I also learned that listening to someone else helped me. As this friend thanked me for helping her, I found my own burden a little easier to bear. It was as if I had been lifted slightly, unburdened for a moment. And I had been granted a few moments of breathing space. My own troubles, my own grief were still with me, but I had, for a moment, returned to being the caring, concerned human being I once had been. I hadn’t lost myself after all. I could still care.
Each time we reach out across our own pain to find another hand searching in the darkness, we begin to lighten our own darkness. Each time we send out a message of love or hope or simple presence, we receive back the same message. We are not alone when we reach out to others.
That’s the secret to lessening the isolation: helping someone. We are always trying to find the right words to say, the right things to do. There are no words in any language that will make it all right that someone you loved has died. There are, however, actions that can make it less lonely. It is the gift of your presence that helps so much. You don’t have to say anything. Just be there and the magic begins. We cannot take away the hurt, but we can make it less lonely for ourselves and others.
And that is the “magic” of TAPS and the wonderful experience of attending national or regional seminars, retreats, or other events. When you first arrive, you may feel you are in the wrong place, the wrong life. There are so many others and some of them are talking, some hugging, some crying, some sitting quietly. Some are even laughing and smiling.
But all are listening…to each other and to themselves. As we listen to each other, we begin to hear our own grief and we begin to build those support systems that will help us through the darkest night, in the most silent moments.
Be careful, however, not to expect your own pain to disappear completely as you become involved with helping others. We each must still do our own grief work, and work it is. But never again do we have to be alone unless we choose to be. Be aware of your agenda, so that your caring for others does not become an excuse to postpone your own healing. Take good care of yourself as well. Healing begins from the inside out, and the best care you can give is to model your own healthy growth towards wholeness.
My own healing paralleled my involvement with others. As I continued to reach out, others reached toward me and the circle of healing expanded.
Together we will join hands and hearts across the earth and decorate the world with hope, healing, and laughter. We are forever linked through the love of our husbands and wives, partners, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends and all of our loved ones who dance across the rainbows ahead of us.
Come join us at TAPS and discover that we are a family circle, broken by death, but mended by love.
By Darcie D. Sims, PhD, CHT, CT, GMS: Dr. Darcie Sims is a bereaved parent and child, nationally certified thanatologist, certified pastoral bereavement specialist, and licensed psychotherapist and hypnotherapist. She is the president and cofounder of Grief, Inc., a grief consulting business, and the Director of the American Grief Academy in Seattle, Washington. Darcie is an internationally recognized speaker and writer, having authored seven books and numerous articles. She currently serves as the Director of Training and Certification for TAPS. For more information and a complete listing of her books, visit www.griefinc.com.