People aren’t very good with grief.
Grief comes in shapes and sizes. It comes whenever life changes, whether they’re tiny or huge changes. Change is often a form of loss, and loss needs to be grieved to some extent. For example, moving to a new place involves change. Even if it’s a move you want to make, it still means losing daily interaction with people and places that have been your constant and comfort for however long and that is going to involve some level of grievance as you learn to move on from the old and enter into the new. Then of course there’s the biggies: death, divorce, disease, break ups, etc. Those ones really leave their mark. They are the toughest to walk through. I once saw a print that said, “I don’t know which is worse: the shock of what happened, or the ache for what never will.” That pretty much describes it perfectly, doesn’t it?
What is certain about grief is that you will experience it and you will experience it many times over the course of your life. People don’t like to talk about grief because it’s hard and awkward. I get that. But the implications of this is that what we really, really don’t talk about is how grief can become a good thing if we allow it to. Since grief will inevitably be a process we have to somewhat continually endure, what would it look like if we tried to become good at grieving? To learn how to navigate it rather than letting it drive us into a ditch (literally or figuratively, I suppose)? To embrace it for all its worth rather than fear it for what its not? To let it shape and redirect us rather than ruin and hold us back? I’m not saying that we will ever feel prepared when we suddenly have to grieve something. The shock will always be there. It will likely feel as if someone threw you into the washer on spin cycle. Loss rips you open. It allows you to see what you’re made of and what you value most. It’s a game changer in more ways than one, but we still have power over how we give and receive within the context of that emotion.
This a little collection of things I either learned in my own grieving or wish someone had told me:
- Stop craving this idea of closure and just focus on making progress towards healing. Closure implies getting over grief and loss. It implies needing to reach a certain point by a certain time. This isn’t realistic or healthy because the pain never goes away completely…it just lessens over time, and that’s ok. You don’t get over it, you just get used to it.
- There is no timeline for grieving.
- Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. In fact, just expect that it will.
- Sudden waves of emotion are normal. Don’t fight it. Allow them to run their course. If you start crying while you’re ordering a coffee, just go with it. Who knows, maybe the barista will take pity on you and offer it on the house. Suppressing or delaying the process will only make things worse in the long run.
- I think God brings the right people into your life at the right time to walk you through stages of grief. Lean on them. Let them listen 5, 10, 1,000 times. It’s okay to admit that you need to just be taken care of for a little bit.
- Grief brings out the best in people; you’ll find out who your real supporters are. Grief also brings out the worst in people; be prepared and don’t take anything too personally. Everyone is going through their own shit.
- Be kind to yourself. Sometimes you will need to play the victim card. Eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while you watch Netflix all day alone in your bed. That’s okay as long as you don’t stay the wallowing victim forever. Being kind to yourself also means making the choice to do something beneficial for your health. Get up, get out, and do something even when you don’t feel like it.
- Say it. Say everything. Just get it out. Word vomit. Don’t bother filtering. Grief can make you say some insanely stupid things, but that’s what you may need at the time. If you regret it later, just cut yourself some slack.
- You will never get your old self or your old life back. Rather than focusing on what you could have said or done differently, turn your attention towards building the new and accept that you did the best you could with the time you had.
- While it’s not a good idea to rush the grieving process, don’t procrastinate it either. Numbing any pain or attempting to avoid it by using other people’s bodies or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings…that is a dangerous game, my friend.
- Learning to be lonely, to get comfortable with that feeling, and to eventually work out that you actually aren’t ever alone is one of the most valuable journeys grief brings you through. Don’t miss out on it. You will be a better person because of it.
- What you allow is what will continue.
- Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.
- It’s all messy. So messy. There are no right answers. There is no one-size-fits-all model for what it should look like. Don’t judge or compare yourself to how other people appear to be doing.
- One of the hardest things to believe is that it will get better. Find people who have been through a similar loss. They will be able to tell you that it does and sometimes this can bring a glimmer of hope to cling to.
If you’re grieving in a big or little way, whether its been a week or five years, my heart goes out to you and I am here for you if you need it. It gets better. Lets get better.