“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
I was reminded of Joan Didion's quote during a week when several of my co-workers experienced loss.
All of us will experience the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives, and until we do, many of us expect our reaction to the inevitability to be a brief period of sadness. However, when loss happens, each of us will face it in unique ways that may surprise and confound not just those around us but ourselves.
There is no "right way" to grieve, and we do a disservice to each other and ourselves if we think there is. Each of us will travel the path in our own way and time.
But what can we do to make that path a little smoother?
In my own personal experience, I found that it is not the immediate aftermath of a loss that one requires the most support. Indeed during those early days, the numbness is so complete that the comfort provided is not felt. As the numbness subsides, the pain of loss is felt. This is the period that reality sets in and this is when one feels the need for the support of friends and family the most.
But just as life changes in an instant, it also moves on. There is an expectation, particularly of those not directly affected by grief, that time heals. While time does heal the deepest wounds, it does not remove the memories, and even the most straightforward event can revive emotions of loss.
So after time has passed and life has moved on there are moments that remind one of the loss. It is these times that support from others is still required.
We can make the path smoother for our friends and ourselves by knowing that there is no limit to loving and helping each other until our journey ends.