We are born to die. It’s a harsh statement but its truth cannot be questioned. In the US alone, according to the Center for Disease Control, almost 3 million people died in 2017, 864 per 100,000. Death is the inherent aspect of being alive, and it brings with it one of the most painful forms of grief – that of losing someone we love. Grief, the normal, natural response to a loss of someone or something meaningful, will inevitably inhabit our being in its entirety at various points in our lives. We will break apart as grief slams into us; and with support, encouragement and hope we will be put back together.
How do we move through the pain of grief so we can regain ourselves in some recognizable form? What does this look like and how does it feel?
Here are 5 ways to ease the process:
1. Permission to feel:We allow ourselves to feel all of our emotions. Yes, those nasty uncomfortable ones that choke us, make us shiver with cold, darken our sight of the world around us, make us want to spit out anything that touches our taste buds, allow us to only hear our inner screams and ruminations of all the what if’s.
We notice them, sit with them, give expression to them. We let them bubble up and rise to the surface, which gives them air time and relief. They are no longer in that pressure cooker waiting to explode. As it’s been said, you can’t heal what you don’t feel. What we push down, numb out, distract away, will eventually rear its head where and when we least expect it. Picture that tube of toothpaste – if the paste doesn’t come out from the top, it starts to ooze out from the tiny holes that have occurred with use and make a mess all over.
2. Individual with no calendar: There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to grief. And there’s no timetable. We honor our own experience and our own feelings without comparing to someone else who may seemingly have it all together sooner or better. The last thing we need is pressure to keep up with someone else’s time frame for when we ‘should’ be over it, which will then add another layer of upset upon us. We go through it at our own pace in our own way. We can each experience in our own way the crashing of waves that knock us to the ground, the roller coaster of taking our breath away as we hit those deep low plunges, the closed-off solitude of cocoon-like existing.
3. A functioning mask:How we present to the outside may not be a reflection of what’s truly going on inside. At some point we do have to resume certain life activities like work and homecare responsibilities. Putting on that mask of functioning does not at all take away from our grieving hearts and souls. It means we’re taking a step into the outside, oftentimes robot-like, to do what we need to do. And then we come home, pull off that mask and collapse into a pool of tears or get under the covers for that cozy embrace of comfort and solitude.
4. Legacy of love: We feel that hole, that emptiness, that pit in the gut, the missing, longing, pining, for our loved one; and at some point we begin to realize all the love we feel is there too. That hole does not get filled in; there’s no new puzzle piece that can fit in that exact spot. It remains as is. But we, the survivors of the loss, begin to connect more with the love and start to grow and expand around the hole. We integrate their life, love and legacy into our own and slowly inch our way forward, re-engaging more fully with life. Our loved one remains right there, guiding us as we hear their voices, feel their embracing support and continue to offer their wisdom. We forever learn from our loved ones. We carry them forth within ourselves each and every day.
5. Rebuild: As we adjust to our new reality, our new norm, of living with that missing piece, we see and feel the rays of sunlight warming and embracing us once again. We look out and can take in the beauty around us, knowing our loved ones would want us to live on well. We are able to feel joy again, and look to find new meaning in our lives, even as a result of the loss.
We move from the icy grips of grief to the warm embrace of the awe of life. We carry and fill ourselves with our loved ones forever as we continue on living our lives to the fullest and in their memory.