Recent reflections on grief
Whether we have recently lost our loved one or lost our loved one years ago, many of us find ourselves struggling with our grief feeling heart-broken, lost, lonely for our loved one, grieving for the future we are not going to have, and scared of our life without our loved one’s beautiful presence. So many of us wish to wake up one day realising that it was all just a nightmare. Losing a loved one is one of the most traumatic life events we can experience. The loss reverberates through our being on so many levels. We need all the support we can get to navigate our way through the emotional terrain and reclaim our lives. In this blog post, I would like to share some of my recent reflections on grief and on what loss can teach us about living fully. If you’re grieving, I hope that the following blog post will help you to honour your experience and move through your emotions with compassion and care.
The process of grieving
I would like to explore this using an analogy that I read somewhere in which life as we knew and loved it is a ship and we are the ones experiencing the loss.
When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do in this situation is float and stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float.
After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you find the waves are still 100 feet tall but they come further apart now. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out but in between you can breathe and function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the sight of a beautiful tree or flower, the smell of a cup of coffee or the scent of a perfume – it can be just about anything – and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves there is life.
Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for every person, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall or 50 feet tall, and while they still come, they come further apart and you can see them coming: an anniversary, a birthday, Christmas, other days that were special in the life you shared; and because you can see the waves coming you can prepare for them and they no longer overwhelm you as much as they did before. And when they wash over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side: soaking wet, sputtering, exhausted, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
The truth is that the waves never stop coming. and somehow we don’t really want them to stop coming. But we learn that we’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And we’ll survive them too.
My experience with grief
I love this analogy. And I have found it to be very true. In my life so far, I have lost a friend in primary school, both grandparents on my mum’s side, my granddad on my dad’s side, one uncle, and my husband, soul mate and best friend Paul. Of all those losses the loss of my beloved Paul was the most devastating. In the beginning, I often wasn’t sure whether I would even want to stay alive without him. Don’t misunderstand me: I didn’t make a plan to end my life, I didn’t even think about it much, but I just was in so much pain that I couldn’t possibly see it ever changing or improving. But, four years on from losing Paul, I can honestly say that I have learned to ride the waves of grief
There are many really beautiful grief meditations available online that help you to hold space for your emotions during grief. I would encourage you to find one that you really like and stick with it for a couple of weeks and months as part of your self-care. I have found grief meditations to be really helpful in my own process, and I am still doing them from time to time.
I want it to matter
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never have. And I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes.
My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love.