Remembering: How to live with grief and loss
Remembering: How to live with grief and loss Anzac Day – I will never forget. Anzac Day is the day my life changed from how I knew it. It is a day of remembrance; not only for those lives that were lost in wars, but for the loss of a loved one three years ago, […]
Remembering: How to live with grief and loss
Anzac Day – I will never forget.
Anzac Day is the day my life changed from how I knew it. It is a day of remembrance; not only for those lives that were lost in wars, but for the loss of a loved one three years ago, after thirty-seven years together, and how to live with grief and loss.
“Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.” (Rilke)
Life becomes magnified in those moments of remembrance.
The isolation I sometimes feel is almost as painful as the shock and the sadness of the loss itself.
Beliefs about grief
We tend to shy away from grief rather than embrace or acknowledge it. Many of us are taught to keep our feelings to ourselves after that initial period. We are taught to present ourselves as okay even when we’re not. Emotional grief can be so painful that our natural or learnt response is to push it away. We can carry these beliefs that we learn from our families, cultural norms, or societal norms that tell us we “should” be ‘over it’, or “moving on by now”. “How come you still cry about it?” Why do I hide this part of myself? Maybe it’s so that I don’t make others feel uncomfortable, or maybe it’s that voice inside my head that says that others will judge me, or they’ll be tired of hearing about it now.
Feelings and thoughts about grief
Emotional grief can be so painful that our natural response is to push the pain away.
I don’t have a body to bury or mourn in the normal sense of grief and loss. My love of thirty-seven years left our marriage together. This is a lifetime as I was sixteen when I met him. I remember my Great Uncle dying many years ago, and my Great Aunt would talk about him in every conversation about how she missed him more each day. I am convinced that she died of a broken heart, as she just couldn’t continue to live without him.
Why am I writing this? I am writing this because writing is a way of processing for me. It is also a way that I can share and normalise with others those often unspoken feelings of grief and loss. It is a way to explain that if we can allow ourselves to fully experience the impact of our grief, that it can in a way, help the process and open up a space for a different energy that was previously consumed with the grief.
As most people who have some experience with grief know, there are usually different responses or processes we go through when experiencing loss. Shock and disbelief is one such response. Even after three years (I am noticing that I am passing judgement on three years), there are still (another judgement) moments where I wake up and think, “How did this happen? I can’t believe it happened? Oh yes, it really did happen, and I’m not dreaming. Did it really happen?” Backwards and forwards through belief and disbelief. This can often be a way we try to protect ourselves from the intensity of our feelings.
I have supported many, many clients over the years with their grief and loss experiences. The bottom line is, there is no time-line or limit on grieving, and in allowing that natural process and release to occur, allows us to gently connect to what is important to us. I have learnt over the years to check in with my own emotional responses, and as a mental health practitioner, this is an important part of my self-care so that I can be present to my clients’ needs. I take responsibility for identifying and processing my emotions. I have learnt that I will not make excuses for my feelings of grief and loss, and I will feel what I need to feel whilst practicing self-care and compassion.
- Ask yourself the question, “What do I need in this moment?”
- Allow yourself to go through the grief process;
- Do special things for yourself that are self-nurturing – eat well, get enough sleep, exercise, connect with important people in your life;
- Write about your feelings;
- Open up to family and friends;
- Find gratitude in things – I drove home from work last night and am grateful that I had the opportunity to see a koala in the tree outside my house;
- Find something new to do – a project you have been thinking about, or a new activity;
- Remove mementos;
- Find ways to be of service to others based on your values;
- Practice mindfulness as it allows you to examine the emotional pain, make space for it, and live a meaningful life;
- Ask for support when you need it;
- Breathe – this engages the parasympathetic nervous system which provokes a calming response.
If anything in this article has triggered you; you or someone you know is struggling with grief and loss, please seek support. You can contact me via my website www.claresillencecounselling.com.au , via phone 0403 848 398, or via www.papillonwellness.com.au to make an appointment.