Lessons about Grief

The following is something I posted on my personal Facebook timeline one year ago today:

These are the lessons I have learned about grief since I came home almost six years ago, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, to find my husband's body on the kitchen floor and my world shattered:

You don't "get over" the grief, you learn to live with it and find joy again in spite of the sadness. You are not failing if you're not "over it." You never get over it. In the beginning it starts out feeling like your grief is all there is to you, and there's no room for anything else. Then you move to a place where it's not gone but is just one part of makes you, you. There is no time table for this, and it’s not a steady progression.

It's healthy to let yourself feel the "negative" emotions deeply -- trying to avoid them doesn't make them go away. You can allow yourself to cry. In spite of what you may believe, if you start crying you will, in fact, eventually stop.

Sometimes it’s a true victory just to get through the day, or night, and keep breathing. Grief is exhausting.

You're not only grieving the person you lost but also the plans, hopes, and dreams that you had for your future together. It takes more than just the passage of time to find new plans, hopes, and dreams for yourself.

You can’t change the past, and you can’t stop time. You can’t know what would have happened, how exactly your life might be now, if he hadn’t died. You have been forced onto a new path, and you shouldn’t avoid all good things just because he isn’t here to share them with. And it’s not a betrayal for you to decide to do something even if you know he would have disagreed with it.

It is not your responsibility, nor is it possible, to maintain his relationships with other people – you can’t be that son or that brother or that friend. You can love and interact with those people, but as yourself, not as a proxy.

Nobody knows exactly how you feel, because you are unique and your relationship with the deceased was unique. It can make you feel terribly alone and isolated even when you are surrounded by good friends and loving family. Even other people who love and miss him aren't experiencing YOUR grief; they just can't. Draw what strength and comfort you can from them, but also allow yourself the space and time to process your own feelings.

I still find all of this to be true, except for the part about never “getting over” the grief. It is absolutely true that the loss will always be a part of me and that it will be one of the things that contributes to my identity. But that’s different from living in constant pain from unresolved grief. Now that I have learned how to apply the tools of The Grief Recovery Method, I can cherish all of the memories of my relationship with my late husband again. I can be saddened by the loss without being wholly defined by it. I can miss him and our life together without it impeding my emotional well-being.

So, while there’s no “getting over” the loss itself, the unresolved grief does not have to define your life from now on. Find a Grief Recovery Method class, learn and apply the tools, and keep the memories while letting go of the shackles of pain that are keeping you the prisoner of your grief.

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