“The reality is you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same again. Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to.”
I can remember sitting in a support group meeting one night after two of my children had died. During a lull in the conversation, a woman sitting across from me began to sob.
“When?” She suddenly burst out. “When do you stop thinking about it constantly? When will this pain go away? When will I be able to breathe again?”
No one attending the meeting said a word. No one bothered to ask this member for further explanation. That’s because, without explanation, we already knew what “it” was.
And I can remember thinking to myself, in that moment…Never. Not for me…never. This pain will never go away. This is me for the rest of my life.
I was right when I thought that thought. Yet…I was also wrong.
Grief. It’s time to do away with some common misconceptions surrounding grief, personal and societal beliefs that keep us trapped, that keep us prisoners, that keep us punishing ourselves because we don’t “get better.”
“The reality is you will grieve forever”… Can you hear the baby next door that grows fussy each day around 2 p.m.? Can you see the pregnant woman at the grocery store, cheeks pink from carrying around an “extra load?” Can you feel the hand on your shoulder that touches you in such a way that it reminds you of a child’s curious caress?
I can…I do…and, I always will. Where once it was rare for me to pay much attention to situations like these, now, after loss, they jump out at me, sometimes from all corners, reminding me of what was, what is, and…what could have been.
“You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered”… I will never forget the feeling I felt when the nurse took my dead child out of my hands. I will never forget the feeling I felt when we buried that child in the ground. I will never forget the feeling I felt when I realized I’d never see my baby’s face, fully developed, joyful with laughter. I will never forget.
Yet, grief changes. Whether it’s a baby you’ve lost, or a grown adult, grief–for the human mind–grows…kinder. It’s sharp stab grows less piercing, less debilitating, less “consuming” as time goes on. Somehow, we learn how to live with it, to allow it to redefine who we become, to even, at times, feel “blessed” by it, understanding on some unconscious level that what happened to us happened for a reason, and that it is possible to take an experience of grief as a means to better ourselves for the world, helping others who are willing to be helped.
“You will be whole again but you will never be the same again. Nor should you be the same, nor should you want to”… Death changes us. I believe it’s supposed to. Most of us walk around obsessed and worried about things that mean absolutely nothing at all. We forget that life is short. We forget that life is beautiful. We forget that every single moment in every single day and night is a gift, giving to us, to celebrate and cherish. When someone dies, there’s a sudden obvious pause, a quietness that begs us to pay attention to what we have in the moment. That “pause” is the beauty of death, like a wake-up call that’s always been ringing, but one which we’ve chosen to ignore.
This is the reality: you WILL grieve forever. But on your own schedule, and in your own way, the beauty of life will return. You merely have to be willing to patiently rub the fog out of your eyes, and let the color of life seep back in.
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