When my husband died, within 12 hours, I felt absolutely inundated. Calls, texts, WhatsApp messages, emails, Facebook messages. Everyone promised to be there for me, whenever, wherever and whatever I needed. I was overwhelmed, both in the good and bad sense. I didn't have any space to breathe.
I had enough food to feed Africa sat in my freezer, the rest in my fridge for anyone visited, they'd get offered food. I wasn't hungry. Offers for company that I wasn't ready to accept, evenings out that I couldn't face, every type of support you can imagine, but I just wasn't ready for it. Everyone promised to be there for me, that they'd look after me, always.
Once the funeral passed, some of the support was still offered, but mostly, people went back to their own lives, they'd said their goodbye at the funeral and had a sense of closure. They'd had a chance to make a toast in his name, to recall some fond memories and job done, they've done their bit.
For me, this was when things really got painful. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a whinge, it's a factual statement. The funeral is so often closure for people who aren't as close to that person. They come to pay their respects, perhaps share some memories over a glass of wine at the wake, then they go home, and they're done. The true pain of the death isn't theirs to bear. It is yours, and you soon learn you're going to pretty much alone on this journey.
I spent the days up until the funeral mostly planning, making arrangements, really practical stuff. I kept telling everyone his pain was over, he was in a better place, because I didn't know how I felt. It was easier to feel that, to keep telling myself this lie, because I couldn't face up to the reality that he was dead, and that I was in the most unspeakable pain, in my body, my heart, my mind, my soul....Everything just hurt.
Once the funeral has taken place, all the practical things have been dealt with, and I was now just sat alone with my thoughts, feelings and suitcases full of grief. I had no idea where or how to start unpacking.
Helping Others Understand
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone supporting someone who's grieving , it would be to still be there for them after the funeral. Those days, weeks and months to come are incredibly painful, and the support and understanding of others helps so much.
There are so many simple ways you can support them, I'll list a few things below for you:
Offer to go shopping
Make food for the freezer
If they have children, offer to take them to the park so the griever can have some time out
Invite them round to your house for a break, or go for a walk with them
Keep in touch, even if they're not replying to you. Believe me, the contact is appreciated, they might not have the energy to reply, but they need to know you care, so hang in there
The final, and most important thing you can do is, never stop inviting them to things. It is likely they'll say no, but just accept this for now. If you stop, they'll never be able to say yes when they are finally ready to embrace life again
Just be there, be present, be kind and listen.