All those years I fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately. But what I’ve discovered since is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a barren, isolated place and that only grieving can heal grief; the passage of time will lessen the acuteness, but time alone, without the direct experience of grief, will not heal it.
Grief, as I read somewhere once, is a lazy Susan. One day it is heavy and underwater, and the next day it spins and stops at loud and rageful, and the next day at wounded keening, and the next day numbness, silence.
Don’t get me wrong: grief sucks; it really does. Unfortunately, though, avoiding it robs us of life, of the now, of a sense of living spirit. Mostly I have tried to avoid it by staying very busy, working too hard, trying to achieve as much as possible. You can often avoid the pain by trying to fix other people, shopping helps in a pinch, as does romantic obsession.
But the bad news is that whatever you use to keep the pain at bay robs you of the flecks and nuggets of gold that feeling grief will give you.
Life does not seem to present itself to me for my convenience, to box itself up nicely so I can write about it with wisdom and a point to make before putting it on a shelf somewhere. Now, in my early forties, I understand just enough about life to understand that I do not understand much of anything.
Anne Lamott — Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (pp. 68-75)
Grief is something our culture desperately struggles with. We are told to just get over it, move on, fake-it-til-you-make-it, or let go and let God. All of this sounds like suitable feedback for someone who’s struggling; but it can be monumentally invalidating at the same time.
Grief is a process. Grief actually takes work along with time—it’s not just a timetable—it requires something of you to complete. Those who assume time is the main ingredient are actually advocating repression. They think if you can just give the grief enough time, eventually the healing will come once the grief has been sufficiently ignored.
Here’s the problem . . .
How many of us know people who have repressed their grief for years—or decades—and it’s obvious to everyone but them they still haven’t dealt with their grief?
Time does not heal all wounds!
Something else our culture fails to recognize; grief is about more than just death. Often times, we need to grieve the loss of a marriage, a lost limb, breasts that have been removed, a job loss, a child moving out of the house, the loss of your innocence—anything that drastically changes your life from what it was yesterday.
Basically everyone has heard of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief: Denial and isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. However, I have recently learned about William Worden’s tasks of mourning that I believe are a more effective way to actually complete the grieving process and move into healing. (Worden suggested working through the tasks of mourning takes a minimum of a year and could take three to four years to completely regain stability in life again) The four tasks are:
- Accepting the Reality of the Loss.
- Experiencing the Pain of Grief.
- Adjusting to an Environment from Which the Deceased Is Missing.
- Withdrawing Emotional Energy from the Deceased and Reinvesting It in Another Relationship or Cause.
The grieving process is something we all must face at one time or another—and for more reasons than just someone’s passing. Grief is a natural part of having this human experience. We can repress the grief—and incorrectly assume time will heal it—or we can lean into it and learn the valuable lessons grief has to offer.
Have a blessed day.
Peace and Love,
Well written words. My mind is spinning with thoughts on this subject as grief of losing my spouse is still a friend that loves to tag along with me and I’m into my third year. Although this grief is by far the hardest process I’ve been forced to acknowledge you bring up a valid point. Grief isn’t just the physical loss of a loved one. I felt grief at the loss of my first marriage. I felt the pain of grief when my pets have passed and when I didn’t get a promotion I felt I deserved. Yes Time helps but nothing like facing it head on and sitting by yourself in the darkness, facing your fears. When you wake up to a new day and the light of the warm sun fills your soul with love …. you know you’re going to survive. Peace.
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