Grief is not linear
I used to think that I would move through each stage of grief progressively. When I completed one stage, I would move to the next, never to return again. Grief is nothing like that. It is messy and chaotic. Especially in the early days, we can be all over the place. I began to think of the stages of grief as aspects of grief. Stages to me suggested a more linear movement. I also realized that when I felt a feeling again after thinking that I was “done” with a certain stage, that when a feeling comes around again, it is a slightly different feeling.
Everyone grieves uniquely.
There is also no right or wrong way to grieve. This can take pressure off when we hear things like, “Aren’t you over that yet?” or “It’s time to get on with your life.” And you may feel differently on different days, or times of the year. Listen to your own needs. This may be difficult in the early days of grief when you are still reeling from your loss. This is a time to go slow, don’t try to do too much, be gentle with yourself.
Grief was a doorway to transformation.
This was a big surprise for me. I never expected to be able to live a meaningful life again after Leah died, let alone find my grief journey to be transforming. It was only after I allowed myself to feel all of my feelings that I was brought to a place off “now what?”
Grief is nothing like I thought it was before my daughter died.
Not because I spent time contemplating what grief would be like, I definitely did not. Yet, I remember thinking that it was not what I expected it to be. This is a good reminder that grief shows up differently at different times of our lives.
I’m still the same person I’ve always been.
Maybe even more so. I think it’s more like grief removed all of the layers of protection I had built up so that my true self is the one who is now living the life she was meant to live.
Everyone in a family has a different experience of grief, even though they are grieving the same person.
That is because everyone has their own unique relationship with their loved one. In my own experience, my husband, son and I each had to meet our own grief before we could be of any help to each other on our grief journey. Grief brings up a lot of stuff, feelings, regrets, things we wished we could have said or done. Each of us had our stuff to work through.
No one likes to talk about grief.
Not even me, ok, maybe that’s not completely true, I talk about grief a lot, and I’m more comfortable talking about it now than when grief was new and raw. We don’t want to be vulnerable. Talking about our grief makes us vulnerable. That’s why it’s important to find a safe space with someone you trust before you delve into those difficult and painful feelings.
Grief is a Life-long Journey.
We often think that grief arises only when we lose a loved one. Maybe you’ve discovered, as I did, that grief visits us many times throughout the course of our lives. Anytime we experience a loss, we experience grief. The loss of a pet, a job, a friend who moves away, the loss of our health, a relationship or divorce, the loss of a dream. These are just a few of the life experiences that we may go through. When we don’t recognize them as grief, they can stay underground and wreak havoc on our health, physical and emotional.
My grief journey brings many gifts.
This is one that had me scratching my head for a while. How could grief bring gifts? And who was I to deserve a gift after my daughter died? That was when I still believed at some level that it was my fault, and that not being deserving of gifts was a way to be punished for not keeping her safe. The gifts began arriving when I was able to bring a feeling into my heart. As my heart shifted the feeling, I would receive and insight, as well as a miraculous gift. A phone call from one of Leah’s friend telling us something about our daughter that we didn’t know. A random meeting with Leah’s favorite teacher. A lilac in my mailbox when there was not lilac bush in our neighborhood. Eventually I began view these gifts as blessings and grace, exactly what I needed to continue on my path.
Distraction and diversion will not make my feelings go away.
Our first response to the overwhelming intense feelings of grief is to push them away, or use a diversion or distraction like food, or TV to take our mind off of our feelings. While these can be helpful, eventually they stop working.