Grief. The word in itself sometimes has me catching my breath in anticipation of the sadness that accompanies it. It is such a complex thing to navigate, if for no other reason than you just do not know how it is going to show up. You don't know how it's going to make you feel, you don't know how you're going to respond...you just don't know. And that in and of itself is so hard because how do you prepare?
There are so many platitudes about grief and loss. I'm sure we're familiar with them. "It'll get easier." "They wouldn't want you to be sad." And so many more. I believe they come from a good place, a place of good intentions. But the impact...that impact doesn't always hit like it's intended to. If we take "It'll get easier", the sentiment is that over time, grief will get easier to navigate, but it's a little more complex than that. Managing grief gets different. There are days when the grief is so overwhelming that it can seem suffocating. It can be so powerful that it is all you can think of and all you can feel. And then there are those days where it's miniscule. You might make it through the day without feeling the heaviness of it, you're able to talk about who or what's been lost in a way that is more reminiscent of the joy rather than the sadness of the loss. The grief is still there, it just ebbs and flows, and we learn how to navigate the changes.
When I think of phrase "they wouldn't want you to be sad", I bristle. I bristle because it leans into the thinking that we shouldn't feel our feelings in the way they need to be felt. This is not to dismiss the different relationships that people have, however, it's the invitation to remember that it is not a bad thing to feel what you need to feel. Would the people we've lost want us to feel nothing but sadness and pain? No, I don't believe that, not at all. What I do believe is that they would want us to honor our feelings as they come, especially when they appear as a way of healing and moving through pain as it comes.
Grief is, at its core, love with no place to go. The love that we have for the people, that we have lost doesn't just stop because we've lost them. The love continues, we just don't have that person there to pour it out to. It stays with us, alongside the memory of the person. And that love, that sometimes overwhelming love, reminds us of the person, and it also is a stark reminder that the recipient of that love is gone. Cue that love feeling like grief. Those moments when you are thinking of that person and your instinct is to remember the love that was there, and it can manifest in many ways, grief being one of them. It's an unfair trade off for having that much love.
It's been said to me that grief is the worst reminder of the fact that we were lucky enough to experience love. And of the many platitudes I've heard, that's the one that resonates the most and doesn't feel like a way to disregard the feelings that come with grief. It honors the fact that we did have the chance to love someone, to care for someone, to have joy with someone while also acknowledging just how much it hurts to lose that. To lose them.
My hope for anyone who is navigating grief is that they do it in the way that works best for you. That you take the time you need to honor yourself, your feelings, your hurt, and your healing. Healing isn't linear by itself, and when you add grief to the mix, well...it's the combo pack nobody really asked for.
Grief. Love. Pain. Joy. They're all intertwined and they work together, even how drastically different they can make us feel.
There's an analogy called The Ball and The Box that helped, and continues to help, me tremendously. I think it can be helpful to those who are navigating grief as well.