“Grief never ends, but it changes. It’s a passage we must go through but it’s not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a lack of faith…It is the price of love”.
The definition of grief is the response to loss. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, cognitive, behavioural social, cultural and spiritual dimensions.
The five well known stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There are also other stages that can creep in like shock, guilt and loss of direction. Anyone who has gone through grief will understand there is no timeframe and we cannot put a timeframe on grief. It is also not linear so that means we can go through the stages in different orders and we can also re-visit a stage even though we thought we had healed.
Here’s the thing we MUST go THROUGH grief and NOT AROUND it, if we are to heal it fully.
Most people think of the death of a loved one when thinking of grief. But grief can take hold in many circumstances like relationship endings, the discovery of a terminal or chronic illness, loss of a job, traumas, betrayals to name a few. Grief is painful, gut wrenching, heartbreaking but it is also very normal and the biggest mistake we can make is to try and bury the feelings, distract ourselves and deny the process because like all by-passing it will insidiously creep in and erupt at some point.
When I was 21 I lost my grandfather and whilst I had lost others before him, the loss of him rocked me to my core. It was sudden and shocking and we were all left in a state of disbelief. I remember speaking at his funeral- I had written a poem so I read it out and I also remember my sadness. I let my emotions out so I thought I had grieved. Some years later I started having panic attacks and suffering anxiety. Doctors wanted to put me on medication but I decided to see a holistic therapist and what they discovered was I hadn’t grieved properly and this had now manifested in my health and wellbeing. I then started the process of going through the grief rather than what I had done those years before of going around it.
I spoke to a friend last week who lost both parents within days of each other and he was saying there were so many things left unsaid. I suggested he write a letter and say everything he needed to say. He could keep the letter for himself, or he could read it to a family member or perhaps even have a special ceremony. Whatever he felt best doing. It’s important we get the things out of us that we hold inside because we cannot heal by burying things. We cannot heal by pretending everything is ok. We cannot heal by “positive vibes only”. We cannot heal by distracting ourselves. We heal in stillness, when we allow ourselves to feel what needs to be felt. When we are honest about what we are feeling. When we allow ourselves to go THROUGH the pain, the grief, the sadness.
We are taught too many times NOT to feel. That it’s weak to show our emotions. That we are being negative if we speak of our pain and sadness. We are taught to mask it-take a pill-have a drink- bury ourselves in work or other distractions. Or worse still pretend we are happy because there’s an expectation on how long someone should grieve or be in pain and that’s simply bullish*t. People feel what they feel and of course there is help and tools out there but to dismiss another’s pain is a terrible thing. And to expect someone to be “over” their grief and pain in a certain timeframe is just wrong.
I have gone through grief many times now through the death of loved one’s and the loss and pain that comes with losing someone you thought you would spend your life with. I also lost my first baby through miscarriage and all these years later, I still feel the emotions of that exact moment I found out there was no heartbeat. Many people tried to help by saying things like “there must have been something wrong with it”, “it wasn’t a baby”, “you’ll be able to try again soon”. I understood what they were trying to do but at that time, those words ripped through my heart like a carving knife and I felt my grief was not validated or understood. It was a devastating experience and I grieved that loss but I’ll never forget it.
Last week I found out my father in law is dying and doesn’t have long to live. Having separated from my husband a few years ago, I haven’t seen my father in law in a while not because I don’t care but because I was being respectful and trying to give space and time for everyone to heal. My emotions have been raw since finding this out because he was part of my life for 30 years and has always been good to me. My kids are of course upset and we are all realistic about the outcome. Regardless of any situation we all have a right to grieve and our feelings are valid-always remember that.
What I now understand is that we are always healing something. There’s always more to learn and we can keep growing if we choose to. My studies, experience and lessons have taught me that far too many of us are faking it. Far too many of us don’t allow ourselves to go through the immense discomfort to heal because it is f*cking painfully uncomfortable and grief would be one of the hardest. If we deliberately or inadvertently by-pass any of the stages we will suffer at a later date. We need to stop this toxic culture of hiding the negative feelings and pain-of course we don’t want to live there but to be the best versions of ourselves we do HAVE to heal it. We do have to go through it.
The irony of grief is that oftentimes the person that you need to talk to about how you feel is the person who is no longer in your life. But little by little, we let go of the loss but we never let go of the love. It’s not about learning to live without them but rather to live with the love they left behind.
” What we once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose. For all that we love deeply becomes a part of us”.