I never realized just how loud the silence of grief actually is. Do I want to see him before they take him away? I have no idea? Is this normal? Is that something I am supposed to do? Will I regret it if I don’t? The silence is deafening, all I can hear is my own breathing and my heart beating loudly in my ears. I am so cold I swear I can see my breath. I sit there perched on the edge of a chair by the side of his bed and I have no idea what I am suppose to do. My mind is racing yet numb at the same time. I can’t force myself to look at him so I talk to the ceiling. None of it seems real. This is the closest I have ever been to a dead person before and he is the only man I have loved. The sheet on him is only waist-high so I pull it up higher thinking he must be as cold as I am, then chuckle out loud realizing he is gone and it no longer matters. I knew in that moment I was in that room all alone and needed to pick myself up and leave. The relationship with my father as I knew it was no longer. I have always felt the need to control the outcomes in my life before they happen, nobody informed me it doesn’t work this way. Grief will teach you this lesson for the rest of your life if you let it. It will keep you captive to your fears, hostage to your insecurities and completely paralyzed in guilt. In those immediate moments following a loss in your life it almost feels as if something else takes over. I was on auto pilot for the next few months.
Do you know how many millions of people die every year in this country, yet how people heal from the death of a loved one has remained largely unexamined since the well-known book on the subject Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s On Death and Dying, was published in 1969. These theories continue to shape the way many experts believe grieving typically progresses, in five separate successive stages. More recent research, however, suggests that for most people grieving is rarely a straight passage. That in fact, the way it unfolds, varies dramatically, too, depending on who you’ve lost and the nature of your relationship. Well imagine that…. we don’t all fit into one mold!! What does this tell us, basically that there are plenty of opinions about how we should grieve and very little research on it at all.
I truly believe that people remain stuck in their grief recovery because they focus too much on these stages. Yes, you will have those days, and even weeks where you are inconsolable. Understand that holidays and certain memories will always be triggers for you and this is completely normal. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are “stuck” and haven’t been able to move forward. Instead please realize that you can in fact still have a life while you grieve. You absolutely can still make small forward movements into what is going to be a new life for you while you are scared. You can pivot when you are convinced you want everything to stay the same. There is far too much emphasis placed on your world before loss and after loss being separate. During grief these two worlds can co-exist. It is okay to start to see a bright new future. All of those studies that suggest we don’t allow ourselves enough time to grieve should not suggest that you remain in mourning for years on end and cease to have a bright enjoyable life. Loss is a part of life and you are not meant to grieve forever. Loss is not something that keeps happening to us, it is an event. You get to decide when you want to step back into life. You get to choose what that path of healing looks like. There is no grief period where you have to stop living. That guilt you are feeling for going out with friends and laughing….where is it written life must be on hold? In time your life will become a new story and it is good to be excited about that.
When you hear people say “You are never the same after a great loss,” it is true, but maybe not for the reasons you think. When suffering loss from death or divorce what you are left with afterward is a life beyond your regular life. You have to be ready to accept that you are now different because of this grief. You are no longer the person you use to be and that you can never go back. This has made you stronger, even on those days you feel weak. You have been through an immense battle but every day you are showing up. Rest when you need to, cry, laugh and heal, but keep battling. Try to remember that moving on never means loving less. Those we lost will remain with us always, and now the living must live.
One last thought to leave you with, when you are in the thick of it all, the guilt, the fear, the sadness, just reflect on one thing. How would you want those you love to grieve you when you are gone? Like most you want them to shed no tears, to tell great stories and laugh. Be gentle on your heart. Much love.