What’s your experience with grief? I’ve been giving my grief history a good deal of thought, writing about it. As always, I write to give voice to my emotions and explore my thoughts. For a while, I gave up on the book I am writing . . . too difficult and painful to dive deep into grief while trying to swim out of it.
Where I am today, I think grief is a tangled web of pain that comes from either unraveling it or keeping it tightly balled up inside. The pain of grief speaks in many voices— loss, despair, sadness, blame, fear, love, gratitude, hate, anxiety, separation, anger, and probably others I have not yet experienced. I have, also, learned that one’s first grief experience coalesces, colors and complicates each subsequent loss, which in my experience adds to the pain, making emotions more difficult to unravel.
While it is an inevitable part of life, it so often comes as a surprise because our culture tends to recognize grief only as a response to physical death. Grief is, also, present in the death of expectations, hopes, dreams, health, relationships, and changes in the roles or situations of our lives. Some cause us mild moments of grief, others are profound and life-altering. We are feeling grief now in this health situation— in the loss of life as we have known it, and the future we don’t know how to re-imagine.
Grief forces us to examine what was, what we knew, what we thought we knew, what we thought would happen, and what we might have missed, overlooked, or failed to appreciate. It makes us face a new version of life shaded under the unwanted shadows of loss. It forces us to examine who we are in its wake, a new unknown future, the realization we really can’t control life anyway, and it challenges our beliefs about the purpose of life and the great unknown beyond.
Some kinds of grief include trauma. Trauma can have a long tail which may be dragged behind after active grieving diminishes. It is not to be minimized. It can keep people stuck in grief, and remain active in the form of victimization that shapes their lives.
What all grief has in common is that it means we must let go of something. It means letting go of how good we felt to have a person or situation in our lives. I have seen it also be letting go of the hope to complete unfinished emotional business, make amends, be validated, resolve conflicts, or heal old emotional wounds.
I know from my experiences and in listening to others’, that every grief experience becomes part of one’s personal story. Each of us gets to write our version of that story for ourselves. With time and reflection, what one discovers from the experience can present the opportunity to rewrite the story. There can be good in grief. We live by and in our stories. Re-writing the story of loss and grief from a different perspective has the power to transform the experience, and perhaps one’s life.
Have you ever had a shift in perspective about a loss you experienced?