“If a loved one is caught in the tide of grief, there's no shame in just watching from the shore."

When blogger Richard lost his wife Fiona just over a year ago, he felt helpless. Here, he describes how simply knowing people were there helped him to weather the storm.

A boat floating at sea
"When my own storm hit, my hands were too weak to grip the oars, and my strength gave out from pulling against the tide."

When the person you love is dying, one of the most powerful emotions is a feeling of helplessness: you can’t make it better, you can’t prevent it and your human instincts seem to be in direct competition with the facts.

The thing is, it doesn’t stop there – it affects others too. When a person you love is watching a person they love dying, the ripples of helplessness seem to spread outwards.

Weathering the storm of bereavement

Years ago, I used to love a certain Danish proverb that runs like this: trust God in the storm, but keep on rowing.  As a minister, it appealed to me as it represented just the right mix of faith and self-reliance.

When my particular storm came along, though, it was a different story.

Sea and sky became an indistinguishable blur. My little boat pitched and tossed so much that I lost my balance and soon lost sight of the shore. My hands were too weak to grip the oars, and my strength gave out from pulling against the tide.

That is when a remarkable thing happened – all along the shore, little pinpricks of light appeared in the darkness. Family and friends came out of their houses with matches, candles, torches, bicycle lights and anything else they could lay their hands on. 

Light the way for others

Between them, they showed me that the shore was not as far away as I had thought. Other boats, with stronger, fresher oarsmen pulled alongside to left and right of me and, together, we rode out the storm.

If you are watching from the shore, please be assured that simply doing so – making yourself known – may be all that is needed to help someone trapped on that small boat in the midst of the storm.

Have you gone through bereavement and come out the other side?

Could you share your experience with others? If so, please reach out through our Online Community.

Author

Richard Littledale

Husband of patient

Richard Littledale

Richard's wife Fiona was cared for by Sue Ryder Hospice at Home Nurses during the last few weeks of her life. Since then, he has been chronicling his journey through grief via his personal blog http://richardlittledale.me.uk.