Moving Through Grief
Grief and loss is a subject I have deep compassion for and as well as passion. You might be thinking that's weird. Who wants to talk about loss and dying? Well, me. Hearing stories about the ways folks have created meaning from loss, in often incredible creative ways, is inspiring. Humans are so resilient.
Sometimes the way we talk about grief feels stale and rigid. It can feel like there are rules for grieving, amounts of time to be sad, and strict rules around rituals. I would like to propose a more flexible structure to view and process grief.
It might be helpful to start with some misconceptions about grief and grieving. These commonly accepted ideas often cause confusion and can create painful barriers to the healing process.
There is an allotted time period in which to grieve and then you should forget and go on with your life.
There are places where it is acceptable to feel sad and outside of these designated places you should pretend to be alright or, at least, not discuss your sadness.
There are specific stages of grief. You will go through them all in order and then the process will end. If you don’t have this linear experience, then something must be wrong with the way you're grieving.
Grief is not complex. - We are asked to have a singular and concise belief in how we feel. There is little space to explore the complicated feelings that often exist when we experience a loss. These complexities may include abuse, rape, addiction and deep shame.
Below are some ideas that may illuminate the healing process and offer new ideas on how to heal.
Do you have rituals around closure? Around Loss? How about rituals for restarting? Sometimes our culture or society gives us rituals. Examine these. Are they working for you? Do they connect with you? If so how? If not, can you create some that feel more meaningful? We are often given suggestions on ending relationships with grief. Are you allowed to revisit it? If so, in what circumstances does it feel important to do that?
Say hello instead of goodbye!
Many times grief work involves ideas of letting go, saying goodbye and moving on. When people die or leave our lives, it doesn’t mean the relationship we have has to end. This goes for other losses as well. How do you hold on to the important things even when they are not psychically with you? How does that person continue existing in your life? How do they influence you in your decision making? For example, maybe you buy apples at the grocery store, because you know they would want you to stay healthy or you might visit their favorite spot to enjoy the space they did. You could also write a letter to a person or thing that you are grieving as a way to stay connected to them.
It can be incredible soothing to find meaningful remembering practices. Consider looking at photos, or maybe re-visiting conversations you had with your loved one in your mind. Maybe plant a tree in their name or write down their stories. Often, when we remember it brings us comfort. What are the ways your remembering keeps you engaged with life?
When we share our loss in a trusted space with safe people it helps us to build community and not feel so alone in the process. There can be a power in sharing our words. There is an honoring of our loss and the story that happens when others hear our words and hold them with us. In those moments the things we are grieving live on through the memories we share.
Looking to the past
Sometimes what we have overcome in the past can inform the way we cope in the future. What skills have you gained in the past when you have coped with a loss?
Remember a loss you have lived with in the past. How did you go on living with it? What skills, thoughts or actions helped you? What customs or rituals have helped you when grieving? How did you survive the days in the past? This could be a small thing like a scarf you lost or something more impactful, it is never too insignificant to learn from our past.
Focusing on your needs and wisdom
It can be all too tempting to do a Google search and start self-diagnosing when you aren’t feeling your best. I want to encourage you to step away from advice and how to’s from outside sources and invite your heart into the conversation. When you listen to your heart, what is it pulling you to do? How can you lean into what feels right in this moment? Notice how you are getting through the present moment. What does it feel like to know you are surviving right now? Focus on what you are good at today. What feels honoring and important in this moment?
What's incredible is it's your grief - you get to move through it your way. I am hopeful that these questions and ways of thinking might be of service in allowing you to let go of the rigid barriers to healing and embrace a changing and generative relationship with grief.