When sharing with friends about how we felt after a devastating loss, we always seem to talk about how surreal it is. I will never forget the moment I had just after leaving my house for the first time after hearing my dad had died. Just up the street someone was mowing their lawn. It was an ordinary life moment that felt so out of synch with what such an extraordinary event. My one and only dad, and one of my best friends, had died. It felt like it might if someone started mowing their lawn right after a major earthquake, devastation all around. I had the crazy thought "Doesn't he know my dad just died?"
Crazy thoughts like this happen when we experience loss. Our hearts are on fire, so our thoughts follow suit. It's an extraordinary circumstance, this being on fire. Extraordinary circumstances demand extraordinary measures.
We need to hold our fiery hearts and allow others to help us calm those fires. Asking for support is hard for many of us, but seeking support -- and allowing yourself to receive it -- from friends and family is crucial. Try to use this phrase a lot "Yes, thank you." If someone isn't offering the kind of support you need, reach out. If hugs or holding hands are offered and they will ease your pain, say "Yes, thank you." If someone bringing food to you or making phone calls for you will calm the flames, say "Yes, thank you."
Soon after my father died I found out that the person running his company had been embezzling money for years. I needed to get her replaced without alerting her to avoid even more losses. The business was 3000 miles away and I really knew very little about it. I couldn't upend my life to go save it, so I had to depend on the kindness of a very smart stranger, a friend of my dad's. It was hard for me to accept the help and to be so out of control. I saw, though, that this was the best solution for my aching heart and the business. I said “Yes, thank you” to his offer to be an angel to the business.
Even if you get all the support you need, you may still have a long to-do list. Just remember what should go up at the top of your to-do list, in larger print than all the rest: TAKE CARE OF MY HEART.
Let this question help you find your center when making decisions (even of who to ask for help, or whose offers to accept): "Will this help me hold my heart?" We can get so busy with all the practical matters after a death that we set aside their heart care. That's when it's even more crucial.
If you have to, put post-its all over your house with a picture of a heart so you remember that your heart is your #1 priority. It's the equivalent of putting on your oxygen mask first in the case of an airplane emergency. You will be far more able to be present for all of your other loss-related duties. Most important, your heart will be more open to giving and receiving love if you take care of it from the beginning, and that flow of giving and receiving will be the ultimate salve on your fiery heart.
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