Understanding

Our retirement years are those when we are most likely to experience the deaths of those close to us.

Almost certainly we will be attending more funerals than we do weddings and christenings.

When that happens, at best we may feel tongue-tied and helpless in the presence of a grieving friend or family member. At worst it will be a deeply numbing personal shock, due to the closeness of the relationship.

When that happens, the last thing that’s needed are words that are trite, insensitive, super-spiritual or unhelpful in other ways. Sadly, you are almost certain to receive them.

Indeed, at times like this you will wish those involved had headed these wise words –

Be not hasty to offer advice to those who are bowed down with a weight of trouble. There is a sacredness in grief which demands our reverence. The very [home] of a mourner must be approached with awe.’  (Charles Simeon, clergyman, 1759-1836)

  • The bereavement experience

    If you are facing bereavement or experiencing it, you may be helped by understanding the emotional process most people go through. Every individual case is different but still there are recognised stages and characteristics of this most painful of human experiences.

    Although there is no neat progression between the stages of grief, and they don’t necessarily happen in any particular order, you may find the following helpful – which is taken and adapted from recover-from-grief.com.

    Shock and denial: This is often the immediate reaction to learning of the loss of someone close. It provides an emotional protection from the feeling of being overwhelmed. For some it can last for a long time.

    Intense pain: As the shock wears off it can be replaced with feelings of intense numbness and pain that is almost physical.

    Feelings of guilt: These can sometimes surface alongside the feelings of pain. Guild that asks questions like ‘why them and not me?’ Or expressed through questions like, ‘If only I had or had not done such and such…’ Or concerns like, ‘I never got to say good bye…’ and ‘Did I love them as I should have done?’

    Anger: This is a natural reaction and may lead to lashing out at others and other uncharacteristic behaviour.

    Feelings of depression, sad reflection and loneliness: These may follow, even at a stage when others expect you to be getting on with life and facing up to the ‘new normal’.

    Life becomes calmer and easier to bear: It may take a very long time but eventually, one hopes, the physical symptoms of pain and tiredness may lessen and emotional heaviness starts to lift.

    The ability to start working through the implications: It is here that you’ll be experiencing a different phase of life with signs of progress. Of course, there is a huge amount of work needed to reconstruct and almost reinvent yourself in your new world. But you are on your way.

    Acceptance and hope: Although life will never be the same, this final stage of grief makes it possible to look forward and plan for the future. However, to not be surprised if some previous feelings spring up – perhaps triggered by a familiar sound, place, memory or significant anniversary.

    Not a time to go it alone

    The experience and pain of bereavement can sometimes drive people into their shell. Partly this can be because it is easier not to have to face people and talk about something so painful. And partly because some who should know better would rather keep clear for fear of not saying the right thing.

    However, isolation is not a good thing to happen. This is a time when you need all the support you can get. You should take support without guilt or the need to pay it back in the future.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife