Reading this quote immediately brought tears to my eyes, touching a chord deep in my being. At the time I was grieving the death of my father whom I was always extremely close with. The words expressed the way I felt better than I could, capturing my painfully awful feelings in a captivating and descriptive way. I was gratefully humbled, knowing I was not the only one being eaten alive by grief.
Have you ever felt the deep pain of grief? It comes from many different places. The ultimate loss is the death of a loved one, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a child, a best friend, or a co-worker. Someone who was an integral part of your daily life is now gone. Grief also comes from the loss of a partner due to a divorce, a breakup, or when a partner has an affair. It happens when life moves on and a child moves out. Grief happens anytime we lose something of significance in our life. It is happening all around us all of the time and, indeed, it is a part of life.
Grief is hard; excruciatingly so. Humans do not want to feel this type of deep, deep pain. People often come to me wanting to learn how to heal. Not surprisingly, they want a quick fix out of the pain and into life again. Unfortunately, to truly heal, they must go through and into the pain. Trying to go around or avoid the grief is at best a temporary fix. I have seen too many people come to me many years after their loss, not properly healed from their grief. They tried going around and it just doesn’t work.
What does it mean to go through your grief? It begins by expressing the pain, the love, and the memories that you’ve had with the person. It means patiently feeling each feeling that arises in you because of your loss. Some may feel that grief is best described like the waves of an ocean; it comes up and washes over you. It is immense and you are small and you feel like you may be drowning in it. Often these are the first and most intense feelings of grief.
This process of grief is often counterintuitive, especially in a society that prizes rugged individualism. We were brought up on phrases like “keep your chin up!”, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!”, and“Snap out of it!” The message is clear. Get back to normal and do it quickly! So our healing process can often get messy with well-meaning loved ones who just want you to feel better and be happy again. Many people do not know how to respond to your sadness, anger, or fear. It makes them uncomfortable. We can learn how to vocalize that it is not only okay to grieve, but necessary.
As you remain aware through your journey into grief, the waves slowly lessen. They aren’t as big. You feel more able to handle them and you are able to come up for air and breathe.
I recently rewatched the movie Pleasantville. During one scene, as a character is beginning to feel their feelings, they see a single red flower. Everything else remains black and white. Coming out of grief feels similar. That single red flower symbolizes a sense of hope and a feeling of being alive again. Just that one glimpse of ‘red’ may help you to feel like a normal human being again.
Grief will manifest itself differently in every human being. Do not compare yourself to another. Some can seem to go quicker through the process, some slower. Some need a lot of support and comfort while others feel better with more solitude. Whatever your way is, it’s okay. Grieve the loss and allow it. It is the grief that you experience and express that has the greatest potential for your healing. So remember to be patient, and feel into that feeling of being eaten alive.