‘Tis the season . . .to grieve?
It’s a relevant question. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, where 1.46 million have lost their lives, it’s guaranteed that some of us will be facing the holidays without our loved ones. How do we move forward, despite the trauma of sudden loss?
Train your dragon, Kate Inglis tells us, or, more accurately, learn to live with it.
“In any sudden trauma, a dragon takes up residence within us.”
Inglis is the author of Notes of the Everlost: A Field Guide to Grief in which she writes about the dragon as a metaphor for pain. A dragon just makes sense, doesn’t it? A fiery beast snarling and stomping around, wreaking havoc. And that is exactly what grief can do, show up uninvited, spitting fire. It’s natural to resist. We want to perform, stay sane, anything but face the loss. But face the loss we must. This process leaves many of us desperate, wondering what happened to our normal selves and how we can get them back.
What if that isn’t the goal? Inglis suggests leaning into the heat the fiery dragon brings, let it be the “spice of life,” our inspiration. It can even become one of the best parts of ourselves as we learn to live with it. There is no pressure to perform, to lie about our experience or pretend we haven’t been affected. Death is a trauma, grief is a mysterious beast, and there is no accolade for walking through unscathed. It is the love we have for what we lost that invites the torment, and, in a counter-intuitive way, can help us connect to the pain.
So, what if you haven’t lost a loved one to Covid, or some other tragedy? Having walked through child loss, Inglis recalls how it felt to have friends and family “stare at their shoes,” ask about the weather, anything but acknowledge her loss. Let’s be honest, facing pain takes courage, even if it isn’t our own. As Inglis says, avoiding the pain of others is protecting our own dragon from spitting, making us uncomfortable. But if we’ve learned to sit with our pain we can enter in with others. Take note: It is far better to acknowledge the loss someone has experienced than ignore it.
‘Tis the season to be jolly? Maybe.
Has your friend lost their grandparent? Their child? It’s okay to dial down the holiday cheer and look into their eyes. You’ll be okay, and if they’re allowed to experience their pain without judgement, they’ll be okay, too.
If you’ve lost a loved one recently, the holidays can feel like freshly unpackaged sandpaper to a tender wound. Give yourself grace and remember that grief and pain can coexist with us if we let it. For an honest and up-close look at grief, and how to train the dragon, check out episode 18 of Despite the Odds where Kate Inglis shares her story of loss, how she learned to sit with her own dragon and create a safe space for others to share their personal stories of loss.
Click here to listen to Despite the Odds: Overcoming Grief/Loss of Loved One: Kate Inglis Author of Notes for the Everlost: A Field Guide to Grief