Good grief: An open invitation

 

Although we never look forward to grief, there is something of infinite value that we learn from it. It’s the wakeup call we need to fight the complacency of our lives. It’s the reminder we secretly crave that life is precious and cannot be postponed.

But all too often, we don’t allow ourselves the time we need to grieve. We are is so much of a hurry to move through and beyond it, we don’t give ourselves the chance to just be with it. We are always looking over our shoulder, wondering when it will be over. But in doing so, we squelch our ability to grow from our losses. We want so badly to return to the status quo that we forget what is needed: to ripen into a new incarnation that absorbs into itself the love that previously went out to another.

There’s no way right way or wrong way to grieve. No judgment on how long or how much. The only induction is to make use of the grief. Use it to renegotiate your place in the world. Let sorrow take you where it will and whisper its wisdom in your ear.

While most of you are familiar with the stage theory of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, denial, and acceptance—it can be both helpful and misleading. In real life grief is a lot messier. Grief is a fluid, fluctuating process, not a fixed state with clear delineations.

Grief can feel a lot like fear or stress or trauma. However, it doesn’t need to be treated asa disease or illness. It takes energy, as any relationship takes energy. Be open to how grief would like to express itself through you. I have a client who found herself waking up two hours earlier than usual so she would have time to drink tea and sit under a favorite tree in her garden.

It can be moving your body or staying blissfully immobile, throwing yourself into the world, determined to live, or retreating from the bally-hoo, determined to meet sadness without distraction. Whatever is soothing to you is what I call good grief. It’s charting a way to be with, and even welcome, a range of emotions that can oscillate between relief and despair.

Allowing people to be part of the process, rather than isolating yourself. Let yourself accept support. Acknowledge that in some fundamental, irretrievable way, your world has shifted.

This is what it means to find a way to say goodbye.

Then, you reap the benefit. Like Emily Dickinson’s poem, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes” That formal feeling is rebirth—the pain of dying and the shy joy of survival.

Whether you are drawn to rituals to help you articulate the arc of your experience, want to normalize, or curious to explore spiritual realms that now feel more compelling, the most important things is to be present with your impulses. Trust your own experience and the depths of your pain. If you let the pain lead, you will rediscover your own belonging.