Hurting the Ones we Love in Grief

Confession time.  Sometimes, I’m kind of a jerk.  Actually, I’ve been an especially large mess during some of the years you’ve known me on this website. I’ve allowed emotions like fear, pain, and anger to justify some epically stupid choices.  Decisions that I am (1) too smart for (2) that went totally against my character and (3) which have long-term consequences.

Had you told me at the time of my self-destructive, downward spiral that I was acting like a terrible person and going about things all wrong, I would have told you that you, “like, totally have no idea what you’re talking about!”   Boy do I feel sheepish now.

I’m just grateful that the people I love and care about had enough faith in my good qualities to stick with me as I battled with my worst.  They didn’t have to.  They could have given up on me.  They could have written me off or, worst of all, they could have defined me by my demons.  In retrospect, I see how narrowly I escaped losing people and things that I don’t want to live without.

Part of me wants to write a multifaceted explanation of all the reasons why a person might make bad decisions when they are feeling emotional, beaten up, vulnerable, confused, and depressed. I’m not going to do that, though, because excuses are endless and they seldom justify causing pain.

This is relevant to grief because sometimes the emotion and stress of grief can make a person behave in ways that they later wish they hadn’t.  The death of someone you love can feel like such a profoundly earth shattering and unfair experience that you may feel entitled to act any which way you want.  And you know what?  In many ways your are, but one of the cruelest realities of grief is that it happens in the context of ongoing life.  Time doesn’t stand still so that you can grieve in a bubble, instead your grief plays out in the real world where feelings get hurt, relationships need to be mutually maintained, and where there are consequences for your actions.  

When we are at our worst, we need good friends, case in point, having a strong support system has been correlated with positive outcomes in grief.  I know some people feel as though they don’t have the support they need, but I hope most of you do.  Even if you have just one person who sticks by you; who takes it on the chin when you push them away; and who you know will be standing with you on the other side of darkness – sometimes that’s enough.

It’s useful for some of us to admit that when we are at our worst, we can be the worst kind of friend.  If this maybe, could be, has ever been you, I’d like to end this post with two thoughts.

First, stop whatever you’re doing right now and take a minute to appreciate the people who have been there for you. These are the people who help you have perspective; who try and keep you from making mistakes and who love you when you make them anyway; who know what to say and do at exactly the right moment; and who remind you time and again that you are not alone.

Second, if you think there’s a chance you’ve ever hurt this person at any point, acknowledge it and say you’re sorry. And then remember that, even though actions have consequences, you are worthy of forgiveness. Whether you feel regret and guilt over something you did before your loved one’s death or something(s) you’ve done in the pain of grief, you deserve to be forgiven.  If self-forgiveness is something you struggle with I recommend the following posts:

Grief and Forgiveness: 12 tips for self-forgiveness

Making Amends in Grief

64 Thoughts on Individual Worth and Forgiveness

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some people to appreciate.

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April 12, 2017

3 responses on "Hurting the Ones we Love in Grief"

  1. Boy, this really hit home. It was 35 years ago when my brother was murdered. I was in my twenties. The first year – I just don’t remember it. After the trial, even though the monster was sent to prison for life, I went crazy. I became my alter-ego. I am amazed at the situations I put myself into. I divorced my husband, moved to Dallas and began a new life all along having risky behaviors and bad decisions. Old friends watched over me and new ones just thought that was me. It took a couple of years for the real me to ooze through. I learned a lot about myself and MY demons. Tried to get help but the psychiatrist was inept so I continued to try to do it on my own. Twenty-seven years later I attended a support group for homicide survivors. It changed the trajectory of my life. Three years after that, I found myself working as an advocate for survivors of homicide. I am where I am supposed to be and I know my precious brother is right here with me.

  2. How did you know that this is exactly what I needed today. Boy-this rings true with us right now. Thank you for posting this-you have no idea.

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