I just received an email newsletter from my friend Lisa in which she wrote about a conversation she had with a friend of hers who is a therapist. Lisa told her friend she was, “So angry and hurt and don’t know what I am supposed to do with all of it.” Her friend looked at her and said, “You do nothing with it, you just allow yourself to feel it.” To which Lisa replies, “WOW.”
It seems so plain and simple.
How often do we find ourselves spinning out of control into the depths of a grief period only to fight it, wondering when this episode will be done? It is so easy to berate ourselves that we should be doing better, or get lost in the fear that we will never be through this. But struggling to get past the pain of the moment, waiting for time to pass, we do not really accomplish any grief work. Expending energy looking for a way out, the focus is on the struggle which only obscures the exit, and does nothing for our pain.
Grief is totally natural. Of course losing your child hurts more than anything else you could have imagined. Some experts on stress and trauma rank losing a child as one of the hardest things you could have to go through. It is hard to come to terms with it. It doesn’t really make sense, there are no answers to the grand “why” questions when someone dies, especially a child. The pain of this loss is real. It is heavy, isolating, unpredictable, and difficult to deal with.
Fighting it is not the answer. When you focus on the struggle, you ignore your feelings and simply bide your time and seek a way out. But your feelings are screaming for your attention. They demand to be felt and processed by you.
Our bodies and our minds work together in the most incredible ways! It is time to dispell the cliche that time heals all wounds. Because that is not literally true. It is possible to ignore your grief and tuck it away for a very long time. Grief waits for you. And if you do not deal with it, it will fester inside and eventually it will make you sick. Time does not heal the wounds of losing a child; Grief Work in that time is the only path toward healing.
But what is Grief Work? That’s the easy part! Grief Work is simply the act of being in your grief. Listening to your thoughts and thinking them through to a conclusion, journaling to capture the essence of your feelings when you are unable to grasp the thoughts in a cohesive thread, reaching out to someone in your support circle, reaching out to someone and asking them to be your support, writing a letter to your child, to god, or the universe, or your doctors, or even your spouse are all excellent ways to be in your grief. Preparing memorial books, keepsakes, or events to commemorate special dates are equally important. There are no rules, but by taking action you will achieve Grief Work, and you’ll feel so much better for it.
The next time you find yourself fighting against and sinking under the waves of grief, try being still. Try to take a moment and with the most focused intention, be still in your grief. Write down your thoughts, try to make a list of the things you are feeling. Be honest with yourself. By allowing yourself to feel your feelings, you are respecting your emotions and the message they are trying (and will keep on trying) so very hard to send you.