...Decalogue Continued

VII. Don't Feel Guilty If You Feel a Sense of Relief

"I loved my daughter so much. She was so terribly sick for so long. Yet, now that she is dead, I sometimes feel so relieved that's she's no longer in pain and I don't have to worry about her anymore. I am free from any responsibility. But I feel so guilty when I say this."

For this relief much thanks. Tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.
-- Shakespeare

One emotion that may surprise you is relief. Perhaps her excruciating torment is over and she is at peace. Perhaps she depended upon you so much and now there is a sense of reprieve to know that you are no longer encumbered.

It is perfectly appropriate to feel relieved at the same time you are feeling devastated. The task of caring for a dying person is dreadfully difficult. Waves of relief come and go. These emotions are normal; you are not calloused and uncaring. You need not feel guilty. The prolonged illness is past and you have been released from an all-consuming task. Your feelings of relief are well earned.

VIII. Don't End Your Search for Finding Meaning in Loss

"I feel so useless, so helpless. If only I could do something to make my loved one's memory mean something to others."

"Those who bring sunshine to others cannot keep it from themselves."
-- Sir James Barrie

You, who have experienced grief, are better able to understand the grief of others. You can be a wounded healer reaching out to others who are experiencing similar circumstances. Sharing is healing, and you help when you share.

Reach out. In relating to others, you start to let go of that terrible emptiness in your own heart. You take the focus off yourself. You reinvest in others. Reaching out makes you feel needed, wanted, important. Others need your understanding and compassion. You are the expert; you have been there. You are not alone in undergoing pain and crisis. One touch of sorrow makes the whole world kin.

In Jewish literature, the Dubner Maggid has left us a parable whose wisdom can serve as a beacon of light for your dark days:

A king once owned a large, beautiful, pure diamond of which he was justifiably proud, for it had no equal anywhere. One day, the diamond accidentally sustained a deep scratch. The king called in the most skilled diamond cutters and offered them a great reward if they could remove the imperfection from the treasured jewel. But none could repair the blemish. The king was sorely distressed. After some time, a gifted jeweler came to the king and promised to make the rare diamond even more beautiful than it had been before the mishap. The king was impressed by his confidence and entrusted the precious stone to his care. With superb artistry, he engraved a lovely rosebud around the imperfection and he used the scratch to make the stem.

When a loved one dies and life's bruises wound you, you can use the scratches to etch a portrait of meaning and purpose for others. Through your own life, you will prolong their memories.

IX. Don't End Your Search for Growth and Purpose

"I hurt so much, Will I ever find peace?"

That which does not kill me makes me stronger.
-- Fredrich Nietzsche

Pain, loss and separation can lead you to growth, or they can destroy your life. Death brings you this choice. It can lead you to the edge of the abyss, but you can build a bridge that will span the chasm.

Now that you've encountered loss, you may see life differently. When someone you love dies, you confront your own mortality. Knowing how brief life can be might encourage you to try to make your own life more meaningful and enjoyable.

Now that you've encountered loss, you may be looking more deeply into your own beliefs. What had been significant may now appear trivial. You may set new priorities and redefine your needs. Growing is knowing not only where you have been, but what you are searching for.

Now that you've encountered loss, you may have a different understanding of the meaning of love. You realize that loving others doesn't diminish your love for the one who died. Love doesn't die; people do. Grief begins with a terrible and lonely loss.

Grief changes you but it is not destroying you. Grief is a powerful teacher.

"Who are You?" said the Caterpillar. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I hardly know, Sir, just at present-- at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."

How different you are now. Nothing in life had prepared you for this tragedy. Like Alice, you have had to make many changes to adjust to your great loss.

Take small steps and take pride in your small victories. Your love for the person has made your life richer by what you have shared. Your growth in the midst of your pain can bear fruit in your spirit and make you all the richer.

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© Copyright Earl Grollman, 1997. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this work may be reproduced of transmitted in any form of by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system now or hereafter invented, without permission in writing from the Publisher.