Rev. Ron Jetter from Lower Valley Hospice and Palliative Care wants everyone to know it is OK to grieve.
"Grief is what we feel when we experience death or other loss," he explained at a grief workshop held at St. Joseph Church in Sunnyside this past Wednesday.
"Your grief is normal. Your grief is
OK. Your feelings are a gift from God," he added later. "Do not be ashamed of them."
The workshop, sponsored by the Nuestra Casa organization, had a basic structure and purpose. It discussed the many feelings and situations that come from grief, be it from the loss of a loved one, a job, a home, friends, divorce, or health.
Jetter warned that with grief comes serious life changes. To begin with, some friends will be uncomfortable with grief and will want them to move on.
"Some people are uncomfortable and want others to stop being sad, but that is selfish," he said. He added that it is OK and natural to experience feelings of grief and it can take people a long time to begin to move on. Real friends will recognize that and stick with them through it all.
But for grief, Jetter explained that people have four main tasks they need to accomplish before moving on.
The first is accepting that the death or loss is real and that it is final. It is OK to hold onto items or memories from what was lost, but select what must be kept and leave the rest behind, he said.
The second task is to sort through the emotions. From anxiety and guilt, to relief and joy, everything is mixed together.
"Everybody who grieves experiences these feelings," Jetter explained. "Some people just don't admit this to themselves."
The third task is to learn to make a life work without that person who was lost. Things will be different; changes will need to be made.
The final task is to take everything that was sorted through, the items and memories, the feelings and the changes, and return to a normal life.
It won't be the same life you had before, Jetter warned.
The workshop included ideas on how to get through the holidays. Jetter said it is important that people know they do not have to feel joy or happy during the holidays; that long standing traditions do not have to be observed.
Jetter recommended people talk with their family. "Begin by saying this is a different holiday," he said. Also, take time to honor what was lost. One idea was to light a candle for the person before a big dinner and talk about them and remember.
"Use their name," he advised. "Honor the name - speak the name."
The workshop also gave advice on how to be a good friend during times of loss.
"Grief takes at least one good friend or family member," Jetter said. That person will know how to use their ears, not their mouths, to help. Mouths can be used to hurt more than help, Jetter said.
A good friend also provides a shoulder for people to lean on, cry on or to prop someone up.
"Two people can carry the load together."
Finally, Jetter said a real friend can provide two embracing arms. A simple hug can make a grieving person feel safe and untouchable.
The workshop included a video that tells the story from a book called Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss. The video was dubbed by translator Luz Rodriguez and reinforced the ideas that Jetter had described.
Interest in the grief workshop has grown, Jetter says. There are more people, especially people who have experienced relocation to another country, who are experiencing some form of grief.
"The main thing I can do here is give them permission to grieve."