I’ve been thinking a lot about grief lately. In doing so, I realized there are many similarities between grief and recovery. Read through this piece, first as it is written. Then, reread it replacing the word ‘grief/loss’ with the word, ‘recovery’.
It takes as long as it takes: Sometimes people worry that they are taking too long to grieve. They, and often society, push themselves to “just get over it”. It’s not that easy. If it were, they would have done so already, no? Grief takes as long as it takes. You can’t compare grief, because no two lives and experiences are the same. Try to ease off the comparison (and assumption) that others are moving along ‘better’, ‘faster’, or more ‘stronger’ than you. Move through grief at your own pace, and remember, it takes as long as it takes.
Give it time: As much as this may not be helpful to hear at times, there is a measure of truth to this. In time, we develop a different relationship to the loss, than when it first happened. Time doesn’t fix the pain felt, but it gives us space to develop new templates without what we once had.
It takes effort: Parts of grief are more passive, and other parts require a lot of work. Yes, it takes as long as it takes, and we have to give it time, however, avoidance is not a long term solution. You will have days where every fibre of your being is saying, “just stay down”. Self-care, and then keep going. It is possible, for a variety of reasons, to get prolong or get stuck in grief. Some parts of grief you’ll be able to work through on your own, other parts will require the support of a friend/family/professional/support group or even stranger. It’s okay to let people in on the process.
You are forever changed: We experience grief for a reason. Some ‘thing’ in our lives, whether it be a hope, a reality, a person, sense of security, innocence, etc. meant something to us. Maybe we didn’t even realize until that ‘thing’ was gone or until it was too late. When we go through loss, when we experience grief, a shift occurs within us. We can never go back to what was, or what was hoped to be. The present and future are altered from how we experienced the reality of what was. And… as much as we might try to bargain to go back to what was, it can’t. Take what you’ve learned as you build a different present and future.
It’s full of emotions: There are various theories and frameworks to try and explain grief. Some view it in stages, others see it more dynamic that this. Regardless, it is inevitable you are going to feel. Try to be compassionate with yourself, even if it feels unfamiliar or awful. Remember that the feeling you feel right now will pass. You can’t cry forever. And, when the more positive emotions start to surface, allow them to be present. You haven’t done anything wrong by laughing during grief. You haven’t betrayed anyone or anything. Life has to move forward again. It might be a quick reprieve, or maybe a signal of changing times. Whatever it is, it’s there for a reason.
Not everyone will understand: Expect to encounter individuals who will put their foot in their mouth. We’ve all done it. Sometimes it happens because they are nervous, or feel helpless… maybe they just don’t know what to say and feel as though they should… maybe they are looking for comfort themselves. And, sometimes, people are just insensitive. Know you are not alone. It’s okay to set up boundaries with people around what you are and aren’t will to do or talk about. Try to find someone to share your grief with. It’s already a heavy load to have to hold… we all need someone to listen to us, cry with us, distract and celebrate with.