Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics.
I’ve been talking about grief for a long time. I sometimes forget that not everyone is as comfortable talking about it as I am. Let’s talk for a moment about what grief is.
Grief is the normal response to any loss. We experience a lot of loss during our lifetime, and we don’t always recognize it as grief.
I used to think that I experienced grief for the first time when a loved one died. I faced the loss of my grandparents, and my mother before Leah died. Even though I did, it did not prepare me for the death of my daughter.
As I traveled the course of my grief journey after my daughter died, I came to realize that grief is a lifelong journey. We are challenged with many life transitions and losses of differing degrees, over the course of our lives. We aren’t taught how to handle the feelings that arise when these losses occur.
Here are a few of my own encounters with grief.
In school I was always picked last for team games, and I didn’t make the cheer leading squad. Parents or teachers may down play what they consider a minor disappointment. To me these things did not feel minor. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience.
I was sexually abused, beginning at age 8, and I felt like I was worthless for a long time after that.
Dan and I were in a car accident while I was pregnant with Peter, and it resulted in a C-section. We lost the ability to have the kind of birth we wanted, and Dan was not present at his son’s birth.
While I may not have recognized that grief entered into my life at these times; they had a huge impact nonetheless. What impact does unrecognized grief have on your life? How can you fully know the answer to that question?
Looking back from my current vantage point I can see that all of these experiences helped to shape me, and I was able to go back and grieve for these losses once I had the skills and resources available to me, most of which I cultivated after Leah died.
What if I would have had some of these skills available when these events occurred during my life?
What if I had known that it was ok to feel sad about not becoming a cheerleader, instead of lying about going to tryouts so I didn’t have to face my disappointment in front of my family?
What if you were taught how to meet your “minor” disappointments when they happened? We’re often taught to get over it, or move on to the next thing before we fully honor what has gone before. I would have been so much better prepared for the death of a loved one if I knew that my sad and painful feelings were ok to have, and if I was taught the skills to feel them without the intense overwhelm that often accompanies these feelings.
We think, I thought, that if I pushed them away, or used some kind of diversion, they will eventually go away and I wouldn’t have to feel them. (Have you ever felt that way?)
For me, the opposite was true. The more I pushed them away, the more intense they became. I knew I would have to find a way to allow myself to feel the feelings or I would not be able to honor Leah in the way I was being called to honor her.
I learned how to meet my feelings, one at a time, in my heart so that they could shift, so that I could eventually know that it was possible to reclaim myself again; so that I was able to live a meaningful and purposeful life. So that I was able to feel joy again,
And that is how I honor Leah. I help others to find meaning and purpose in their lives again.
Moving through grief, healing your heart does not mean that you will forget your loved one.
Love won’t let that happen.
I feel more connected to Leah now than I ever did, and I feel her presence often.