By Laura Kotlowski, LPC
Loss and the grief that comes with it, are among the most difficult situations humans have to face. Hands down. I tell people close to me, “I don’t do grief well.” It is my truth, and I have learned over time, that it is the truth of many other people as well. However, I have ALSO learned that what I choose to face I grow stronger in…grief doesn’t have to suck so bad – let’s take a deeper look.
Limiting our views of “loss” sucks.
Let’s define “loss.” Sometimes we have a hard time handling grief because we only give ourselves permission to feel it if someone close to us dies. Death is a major type of loss, though it isn’t the only one. Loss can also be the ending of a relationship, not accomplishing a goal, moving, getting married, getting divorced, having a child, a medical diagnosis, the death of a pet, graduating, starting a new job, etc. Essentially any experience that brings about change to “life as we know it” can be a loss. For instance, grief can really suck when your best friend has a child and you feel bad that you feel sad – even while feeling happy for them. Your relationship with that person will be forever changed because of life circumstances – it isn’t bad or good – it just is. Can we feel joy and grief at the same time? Yes. And when we let ourselves do so, well, that doesn’t suck.
How many of you have experienced a loss and then expected yourselves to handle it in a way that was different than what came naturally to you? Were you angry and felt bad for that? Were you questioning the details of the loss and others told you to stop? Were you sad for “too long” or “too short” a time-period? Here’s the secret: there is no “right” way to grieve. You can let yourself off the hook. We will never experience two losses in the exact same way, nor will two different people handle the same loss in the exact same way. You know what doesn’t suck? Grace. When we give ourselves and others permission to experience grief naturally, with compassion, understanding, and patience – that’s a gift to ourselves in an already difficult time.
Grief sucks, yes. Grief is also meaningful.
Grief is a form of love. We feel it because our connection to who (or what) we have lost means something to us. A mantra that brought me great comfort when my dad died, and I have repeated to myself since is “The pain is so great because the love was so grand.” Meaning, I was hurting so badly because our relationship and love for one another was so special. The only way it could possibly hurt less, is if the connection between us was not as special. This logic brought me comfort, and I began to honor the grief as meaningful instead of fighting it.
Grief is good.
The most common theme I have found is that people want to avoid grief altogether. Who wants to be in pain? However, the only way to avoid loss is to never put our heart and souls into other people, projects, goals, pets, etc. We would not be hurt by losses, because we would never allow ourselves to “care” that much. The world would lack intimacy, vulnerability, and love. The only constant in life is change…so in order to protect ourselves from pain, we would have to guard our hearts at all times. The downside of that is when we guard ourselves to keep pain out, we are also guarding ourselves to keep all the good things out as well.
Grief is painful, yes. Grief is difficult, yes. Grief is ALSO purposeful, and meaningful, and GOOD. Facing grief alone can most definitely suck, but the good news is – we don’t have to. We have one another to get through the difficult times and to share in the joyous times.
You might read other material that tells you “time heals the pain.” I find that to be untrue. Grief sucks now, and it will suck later. It just looks & feels a little different as time passes.
Keep on loving one another and don’t forget to dabble in self-love too. Love doesn’t suck.