As you know, I serve Christ the King Lutheran Church, focusing on pastoral care. I also serve at Bozeman Health as an on-call chaplain. In both settings, I have encountered church members and family members of patients who are surprised by their bodily response to grief. I have also been surprised by my own responses, so I can confirm the facts that many of these responses are similar in other people's experiences.
What follows are some frequent questions and wonderings expressed by those who are grieving.
Why am I tired all the time?
Grief has a way of making you physically tired. Your body has had to absorb some hard news, "My loved one has died!" Your body will not recover overnight from such a shock. You may find yourself wanting to go to bed earlier than usual. You may also find yourself in bed the next morning, not wanting to get up and start the day. Your body is going through a normal response to a significant event. I tell grieving people, "Be prepared to be tired for a while. It's par for the course."
Why am I so forgetful all of a sudden?
Grief has a way of short-circuiting your memory. Your mind becomes overloaded with new information about the death of your loved one, as well as the acknowledgement that your loved one is no longer physically present. Forgetfulness is your body's way of protecting you when you have suffered a significant loss. Caring people will understand that your short term memory loss is a natural response to a heartbreaking reality. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.
Why do I feel so overwhelmed?
Many people are unprepared for the reality that we are all mortal beings and our earthly life will come to an end. When life comes to an end for a loved one, we may find ourselves overwhelmed with what needs to happen once a human being draws their last breath. Settling the estate, working with health care providers, making decisions about the deposition of the body, communicating with family and friends the details of the death and the plans for remembering the life lived can overwhelm even the most detail- oriented person.
I encourage people who have experienced the death of a loved one to delegate duties to caring family and friends to handle some of details mentioned above.
Your responses are normal
When my father died in 2019 and my aunt in 2020 during the height of Covid-19, I thought I was going out of my mind. My world had been turned upside down and I could not tell which way was up and which way was down. Then a wise colleague spoke these words to me: "Your responses are normal." This wise colleague reassured me that I was not going out of my mind. She reminded me that grief takes it toll and it can surprise us. She reminded me that I am human and my responses are anchored in my humanity that is shared across the globe.
It is my hope in sharing some of the wisdom I have learned over the years in grief support, that you, too, can find some understanding in the midst of deaths that may have impacted you. As Christians, we live in the hope of the resurrection promised to us in our baptism. All of us go down to the dust, yet even at the grave, we make our song, "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."