”Grief is the emotional reaction to loss’’ ~ Julia Samuel.
Grief is hard. Grief is an intimately personal experience and is unique to each individual. No one grieves in a universally approved manner. Grief can be silent, grief can be loud, grief can be brewing in the back, out of mindful awareness. A person is missing, a loss is experienced and that cannot be filled by anyone or anything else. Time can go on by and yet there’s an unfilled, empty space inside. There is so much to understand and find meaning in, coming to a place of acceptance, understanding the impact on your life and how to begin to find a way forward. Talking about it helps. Thoughts are laid out, feelings are felt. Nothing can make it OK, or bring back what is gone, but a sense of ease, a mellowness comes and maybe finding a way to once again feel their presence through memory and building a life again. Loss is part of life and with loss comes change.
Another side to grief is when a person has gone through significant trauma which has altered their life. It’s like the path for the future has changed in an instant. There’s confusion/shock at how to manage what has happened and find a way through; letting go of a life thought/planned out, to uncertainty. A grief that is connected to trauma or abuse is complex. It calls to see yourself with empathy. It asks for you to acknowledge your life and the ideal life that society calls normal. Grieving for your own self is scary, and a ‘person/human/therapist’ is needed to bring safety and a holding of what can be too much to bear.
I started out this blog thinking about grief and the many faces it can hold. The point in mind was connections to loss. When grief is about a significant others death, anniversaries and birthdays are connections that remind us of the time that has gone by and of all the times to come without them. The things you so badly want to share with them, the stories you would tell. When grief is about trauma or abuse, it’s the connections that remind us of how it was for us. It can be something that triggers off the unfelt, unprocessed emotions; hearing a song, being in an environment similar to the one trauma was experienced, someone’s gender, height, hair colour, something they say or do; anything that connects and reminds us of the abuse.
There’s a reason we grieve, it is to heal. It is remembering what is missing, acknowledging it, validating it and saying it happened and it matters. Let grief take its course to reveal a way through when you are ready to do so and you don’t have to do it alone. Processing the intensely raw feelings is like sitting in a dingy, in the middle of the ocean while the waves wash over, and when the waves stop, you get back to shore (pause, self-care), you build a boat (reflect), and then you go back out (live).
Take time to acknowledge the person who is missing and the place inside that cannot be filled, there almost always is a sigh of acceptance, like that part of you just forgot to breathe as life carried on. It froze. Just like seasons that change, so does grief. Everything evolves.
Consider and reflect on these paradoxes presented by Julia Samuel in her book, Grief Works;
”The paradox of grief is that finding a way to live with the pain is what enables us to heal.”
”The essence of grief is that we are forced, through death, to confront a reality we inherently reject.”
”Pain is the agent of change.”
”It is often the behaviours we use to avoid pain that harm us the most.”
”The person who has died feels alive to us, even though we know that in actuality they have died.”
”Alternating ‘letting go’ with ‘holding on’ is something we need to learn to live with.”
”Death steals the future we hoped for, but it can’t take away the relationship we had.”
”We may want to be happy again, knowing it is right and fair, but feel guilty, because somehow it seems wrong and bad.”