I work in the field of death and dying every day and help people move through so much pain and grief, and I am still no expert in grief - yours or my own.
I do not believe in the experts on grief.
We have been so wrong as we have evolved over the years with what is true, and untrue, about this universal companion, Grief, that we each have a relationship with. It's like spirituality; it is universal, but each of us has a very different relationship with it.
I love this picture of me in relation to grief because I love the shirt, I love the curls that are hanging down, and I remember feeling pretty that day. But my heart was shattered - I can see it in my face. And, I know that when I'm shattered, I notice that I never quite look fully front-facing in a picture.
That's what struck me to write this post. We each know ourselves enough to know when we are hurting. We even catch ourselves by surprise to realize how hard we are trying NOT to feel the pain.
You are not alone if your heart is heavy with sadness over the loss of someone you love. Every relationship will end one day, either through death or choice.
Here are some truths I have found for myself these last couple of years that I want to share with you:
1. Time does not heal Grief on its own. It's alive and thriving and will continue to demand attention without engaging with it somehow.
2. I am not pathetic because I loved so deeply and now hurt deeply from the loss.
3. If I make grief my friend by saying 'hi' to it and spending time with it, it actually is grateful for the acknowledgement and doesn't demand my full attention and settles down.
4. No one can take the place of the one who is not here. I knew that. I know that. I make a permanent place of gratitude for this person in my heart. My living amends of all I did wrong are gifted to the ones that are in my life now. They benefit from all the love I cannot share with that person. All that love needs to go somewhere. I do not believe all this love is meant to stay inside of me.
5. I still go through shock of the loss, one and a half years later. This is OK and normal, and may or may not lessen. I take myself off the hook for that.
6. It does no good to rehash things I feel guilty about or things I wish I would have done better, ways I wish I were a better person - all the should haves, would haves, could haves - this does not help my heart heal to do that, so I do something else instead. I acknowledge I never hope to think, behave, or bring that energy out to another person and I do what I need to do to make that be my new reality. I am a better person now.
7. My heart was shattered. The soul crushing kind of shattering. And I survived. I see that now as a good thing as I love my new softness. My heart has been freed from a cage I didn't know it was in. I cry at the drop of a hat now and am not embarrassed about it anymore. I used to be. I am more courageous in life now. Not in climbing the mountains, I was already good at that, but in going deep with another person and risking looking foolish. I am now stretching in ways I never knew I wasn't doing before. Life is more rich now. I can thank my Grief for this.
8. I learned that I love deeply and powerfully. That is my normal state. Some cannot take that in. Even though that is not about me being inadequate, I realize I take it very hard and personally. I realize I convoluted what I was actually grieving about. The truth is I was grieving letting go of my bratty determination to make something happen that never could. We can never make someone else go deeper in their journey. But we can sure be an arrogant presence in trying. My Grief brings me awareness. If I choose to accept the truth, and change my ways, I become a better person.
9. Grief, with my eyes open, has been such an amazing teacher for me. I had to choose to keep my eyes open though, and my heart. I had to choose to engage with my new friend, Grief. I sure did not ask for this friend, I would never choose it actually, never want it on my team. But, I have accepted that Grief will always be my companion in some way as we are always shifting and changing. In the gain there is always a loss. My journey is to move through the losses gracefully. I'm OK with a messy wild ride, but I welcome the peace and quiet of my heart when it 'gets it' that every drop of love I share is never wasted. I realize I have more pain about not being able to give my love or it not being acknowledged and accepted than I do not receiving another's love.
10. There is no 'sense' to make out of grief. There is no linear progression of phases. There has been no graduation of one phase to another. There can be long spells of calm and all of a sudden out of nowhere, a shocking thought, a realization of something else I didn't realize at the time.
There is so much more to share about this. I'd love to hear what Grief has taught you. How you engage with it. How do you support yourself through it when it hurts so much.
All my love ♥
School of Accompanying the Dying
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