grief suupport Feb 08, 2023
Permission to Grieve


David Knapp

    The meeting was well attended. I talked for over 45 minutes on lessons learned from grieving the loss of two wives and the areas of my life that affected. In the course of my discussion, I gave a list of other experiences in life where grieving often needs to take place. Among them was the loss of an endeared pet. I specifically made the statement that, “It is okay to grieve!” in such situations.

   She sat on the aisle seat in the very back row. As I exited the auditorium my route took me right past this middle-aged lady sitting alone. Approaching her location, I noticed tears in her undecorated eyes as she handed me a note and whispered, “Thank you.” It read: “Thank you for your kind words. No one thinks of us who lose beloved pets. These pets are our children too! No one in the (community) helps us to grieve. They say kind words for the moment and then they forget. We who lose them do not forget their love to us. We are told to move on. Angel died three years ago, July 2. She was my Baby Girl. I mourn her still. The sorrow is with me still. Thank you again for your kind words.” (Lauren)

   The permission I gave that day for her to grieve brought a release and victory over her long overdue pain. Between the insensitivity of friends and her erroneous thought that she should not feel that way over the loss of an animal, turmoil existed within her for a long time. Freedom felt good to her.

   From that experience I became more aware that it was not uncommon that people who have experienced a loss need to be “given permission” to grieve. There is a broad spectrum of reasons why this is true. It ranges from embarrassment, to pride, to perceived social expectation. Not grieving the loss of a pet can be viewed as trivial. Whereas not grieving a divorce can stem from guilt. Grieving the loss of a job may be viewed as selfishness or weakness.

  Surprisingly, I continue to come across many who lost a spouse who look to me (or someone) to give them permission to grieve that loss, or some portion of it. Some have avoided deep grief thinking they had to “be strong” for someone else. Others “never took the time” to deal with their hurting heart and spirit. Still more had underlying wrong ideas about the grieving process which prevented full expression of their pain because they viewed mourning as somehow wrong or a sign of weakness.

   It probably won’t surprise you to learn that a large portion of this last group referred to are men. The faulty, social misnomer that “men don’t cry” tends to swell up and control many. It may be true that men tend to mourn differently than women. Yet it cannot become the easy way out to “stuff” one’s grief, instead of processing it. After all, if you had a bad cut on your arm, you would treat it. Likewise, grief is a “cut to your heart” and should be given proper attention.

If you are reading this and have experienced a loss…I am giving you permission to grieve that loss.

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