Is grief a state of being or a journey?
Love and grief both start with a grand intensity, both become a part of you as you live with the emotion. Grief, like love, is both a state of being and a journey. Unlike love, where we find the whirlwind appealing, grief taxes us, guts us and reduces us. How do we find peace after someone we love dies? Is peace ever an option again?
Queen Elizabeth II said “Grief is the price we pay for love.” It is a chance we take when we give our heart to another. Grief and love are uniquely tied together, they are a package deal. When we take the risk to love, we also risk that one day we will mourn. The way we process our grief and rebuild a new and meaningful life because of loving and losing makes all the difference.
If you are reading this in the first few weeks into bereavement, I understand the need to find information on what lies ahead. When will I feel better? How do I get “over” this? How can the rest of the world keep spinning when the world I know has completely unraveled? You and your needs are seen. The initial shock of grief leads to both numbness and emotional intensity in the first few months. I think the vacillation to numbness gives reprieve from our deep sorrow. Mourning can become all encompassing. It may sound trite, but for the first few months following the death, just give yourself grace and patience. Shock, even from an anticipated death, is front and center. You have been thrust into a new world. Learn how to navigate this new world one day or one moment at a time. Allow your emotions, allow missteps and allow people to help you. Being gentle with yourself now sets the pace for the months and years to come.
Later in our grief journey we begin to find joy in our memories, it doen’t hurt so much to remember good times, bad times and even those mundane times. I believe this is a result of finding a new way to love the person we mourn. This takes time and an evolution of heart. We love people differently through our lifetime and this is part of development. I loved my parents far differently at the age of 5 then at the age of 35. Not more or less, just different. My father died in 2011, and I do not love him less, I love him with a new understanding. I love the memories, the lessons he taught me, how my daughter’s eyes sparkle like his and how his words ring in my mind when I need advice. Death’s great misnomer is death is an end. But can anything make you stop loving? It is not an end, it is a change.
It is a challenge to accept what is and learn to love in a new way.
Remember when I said grief and love are uniquely tied together?
I think the first step to reconcile grief is to recognize your grief attaches you to your loved one, just as your love does. I am asking you to lean in to love. Lean into the ever changing dynamic of your relationship (yes, your relationship still exists). Allow your love to transcend this space. Recognize this love was the foundation for your grief so peel back the grief and settle in the love.
Finding new ways to love, express love and feel love is essential. Death can feel like we have been robbed. In these moments, where we are engulfed by what has been taken, it is essential to also look at what death can never take away without our permission. Death can never steal love, death can not rob us of our memories and how we choose to honor those that have come before. Death creates an opportunity for new traditions, new ways to honor and new ways to love. Death makes us change the dynamics of a relationship but death can never force you to stop loving. The grief/ love dynamic challenges us to pick a door. Admittedly, it’s not always possible to pick the love door. Waves of grief are neither predictable nor intentional. Some days, sitting with grief is cathartic and necessary. It is essential to feel and process the sorrow associated with loss. Just don’t make a permanent address behind that door. It is possible to move back and forth with every milestone, anniversary and holiday. It gets easier to lean into love and create a legacy of peaceful remembrance, continued love and incorporating your loved one into your new reality of walking this earth with out their physical presence.
Tools for leaning into love.
Leaning into love while painfully aware of loss takes conscious effort. It is easy to fall into the grips of depression. As you journey with your grief, you may find you can challenge yourself to intentionally find the love once a month, once a week, or even once daily. In those moments, let your heart be filled with gratitude for a moment you shared, the life you had together, the lessons learned, picture your loved one smiling. Let your heart feel that smile. As you practice this exercise, it will become easier, but initially don’t be afraid to have a box of tissues handy, as we know, we can move from loving peacefully to sobbing in the blink of an eye. If tears, anger or numbness overcome, that’s okay. This is a challenging exercise so be gentle with yourself. With time and practice, the moments you focus on the love will become longer and the periods of sorrow will become more tolerable. Allow for what happens and know you are not alone in this journey. Willow Mark Therapy can walk with you through your grief.