Grief is one of the most complex emotions we, as humans, can feel. Not only does it involve great sadness but with it comes a myriad of other emotions that can feel unexpected and wrong. And when I say wrong, I mean it. Here in North America we absolutely suck at navigating grief and loss. We come from a post British culture of keeping a stiff upper lip and carrying on.
You know what I’m talking about- those brutal formal services where you sit stifling the urge to cry out in anguish, to fall to your knees in abject horror and let all of the emotions fly out of your body and soul. Yet alas, we hold our Kleenex in a death grip, quietly stop our mascara from running and try not to allow our bodies to shake too much as the final rites are said. So I’m calling bullshit in these out dated methods of grieving. I say let it go! Let it rip! If you need to fall to your knees or run a marathon and weep the entire time- do it.
I’m no stranger to grief. I was adopted into a family who had a boat load of it and of course there is always the gaping hole of loss for my birth heritage that exists underneath my chest on any given day. I have lost so many people that I love it seems unconscionable to imagine that many people don’t know this pain or have experienced very little of it in their lifetimes.
I know for me, that every time I suffer a loss in my life I get all tangled up in so many other emotions and thoughts. I know my grief patterns so well I can almost name it in order:
2. A flood of tears and a feeling of needing to do something
3. I completely remove myself from being in the company of others for several hours to days
4. I grapple with the feeling of never being loved the way that person loved me and then I feel anxious about my own impermanence on this planet
5. I talk with the person and always apologize for not being a better person in their life
6. I need to clean and I need to hate everyone who doesn’t feel the pain I do
7. I wake up after little sleep and try to find or reframe all of the good things of life and I laugh, cry, and feel cheated and misunderstood and angry and sad and scared
8. I do all the things expected of me and all the while I curl up when no one is looking and nurture my sadness
9. I rinse and repeat until I’m able to become a part of society again and then it vacillate for a few days to a few weeks- exactly like this
This dance is so well known to me and that pisses me off. I’m not sure that I’m being fully clear when I say that I have experienced this way to many times in my life. But here’s the good news: we have to begin to know how we are when we grieve. It’s self awareness. And with this awareness we can begin to allow ourselves the space and time that we need. We can give ourselves grace. I grew up being shamed and shut down for this allowance of emotions, so owning it and accommodating it feels very gentle and lovely. And my hope for us, if we can begin to unravel what we need and how we feel and set about taking care of ourselves through this process- is that we can then extend grace and compassion to others who feel the same. Or are struggling with it.
Instead of fearing this enormous emotion. Instead of covering our eyes or creating more busy or distracting through unhelpful and disconnected choices, we can use it to soften us and come closer to each other, as we honour the fragility of being human and loving one another.