It’s quite usual – and normal – for people who have suffered a loss to go into a kind of isolation. It’s common to feel tremendous sorrow and dislocation even long after the funeral is over. The normal routines of life have been cruelly interrupted. At Sunset View Cemetery & Mortuary, we have witnessed this pain first hand. But in time, we also see the healing that follows, and our friends in El Cerrito, Berkeley, and Oakland soon find themselves ready to “face the world” once again. From our experience, we have seen this process go full-circle with many, and we wanted to share helpful ideas for those people who are lost in mourning and trying to reconnect with their life.
At first, it’s sufficient for bereaved people to resume their participation in daily affairs. They go to work, interact with co-workers, and re-establish their normal routines. Once that’s accomplished, they may still feel that sense of dislocation because the time they had devoted to the person they lost now goes unfilled.
Though it’s natural to experience this “emptiness” as a negative feeling, opportunities abound for filling this new free time with many kinds of worthwhile activities. As time goes on, a person may wish to pursue an interest that had been put aside for many years, learn a new skill, or search for a hobby. This expansion of interest and desire to learn new things can be extremely healing.
One of the best ways to start feeling good is to help others feel good. Many grief counselors and mental health professionals strongly recommend becoming involved in volunteer activities that fill time and expand a person’s contacts with new people and places. These days, there are certainly enough people in need of help, so community organizations give an especially warm welcome to people willing to support their activities.
Two areas of community service that are always fulfilling for people who devote time to them: Helping children and the elderly, who are our most vulnerable citizens, and most in need of support. Participation in a guardian ad litem program, where adults represent the interests of abused or neglected children involved in legal proceedings, could be an especially rewarding volunteer activity. There are many opportunities to get involved using your talents or doing something you enjoy. For instance, youth sports organizations are always in need of adults to coach a team or referee. Or, choose to aid in a local children’s theater production. You could work on stage or costume design, or even direct a play.
It’s also easy to become involved in helping the elderly. Since so many people are living longer, this type of help is especially important. Meal delivery or errand running to those who can no longer drive, transportation to medical appointments, helping at adult day care centers…all these are worthwhile, necessary, and important.
There are teaching opportunities available, as well. Many people, especially those who have had years of career experience in a profession, are needed as instructors in private schools and community enrichment classes. An organization called SCORE, for example, consists of retired business executives who volunteer to share their experience and insight with small business owners. If you have an interesting hobby, you might be able to teach classes in it, turning an interest or a passion into a very worthwhile investment of your time.
The poet John Donne was right when he observed, “No man is an island.” Each of us is a resource for our friends and our neighbors. Contributing to the community is always a commendable thing to do, but when your volunteer efforts help mend the healing after a loss, you multiply the benefits to those you help and to yourself.