Today, in our country we have several obstacles to natural grieving. First, we have distanced ourselves from it enough that we don’t recognize it. Because we can’t name it easily, we don’t recognize what is normal after a recent loss, or how we bend and adjust six months later. We don’t know what it is like to look back two years after a death, and see that we made it through hell. And now that hell is over.
Grief brings unwanted gifts, that are essential to living a life forever changed.
Our society supports avoidance and neglect of anything that takes time. We live on sound bites. We live with cultural promises that we don’t have to feel bad. Few of us live in thriving communities that hold us every day through different life experiences and moods. By its very nature, that connection can normalize and comfort us in our grief.
What does living ‘well’ with grief look like?
It’s knowing what it is, even if you can’t possibly know what it will be like. It’s understanding that the decimation you’re facing is something everyone faces, over and over. It’s knowing at some point that there has been change and survival and even progress. It’s recognizing with gratitude and humility and amazement that there are unwanted gifts. Gifts we would give up in a heartbeat to have our loved one back, but the process has brought gifts essential to living a life forever changed.
And what happens when internal or external attitudes cut us off from our grief? We become disenfranchised. We believe that different feelings, or ways of grieving are not OK.
- Like too much crying, or not expressing emotions at all.
- Like wanting to continue to visit a gravesite for longer than what someone else thinks is ‘normal.’
- Like thinking that some people – ex-husbands, soldiers, or people who’ve commit violent crimes – shouldn’t grieve.
A Most Human Experience
The disenfranchised struggle to find purpose in their suffering. Their assumption that they were ‘out of character’ before, may cause them shame and anger. They may feel embarrassed at what they perceive as weakness. They may isolate themselves so their vulnerabilities aren’t apparent to others. Most heartbreaking are people who don’t know that they can live through the pain, and rise from the ashes. So they close their hearts to protect them from being broken.
A Part of Our Being
Grief doesn’t go away because we hide from it. It slips quietly into our beings and waits for either a chance to be seen and cared for, or to arise to cause more bruising. But in that arising lies possibility. When it surfaces, if there is someone there to name it or witness it, it can still become part of our healthy living and learning.