The Solution to Grief is Not to Let It Go, But to Grow.
It’s just a regular day. I’m driving home from work, listening to Old Shoes by Tom Waits and
suddenly the tears start. I think, where is this coming from? I thought I was done grieving and
thinking about that person. What is going on with my brain? Why am I thinking about them
now? It’s been 2 years since they died.
Long after the funeral, we might go through long stages where we feel fine or maybe even
joyous again. We think we’re back to our old self, capable of being functioning human beings
again. We can go to work, eat and laugh, then out of the blue like a big wave grief envelopes us, we’re sobbing.
The person we lost will always live in our minds. We don’t get over, or even go through grief.
That loss will never actually go away. It will always be there. Part of me is grateful for my grief,
because I would hate to forget the important people in my life whom I’ve lost. How they made
me feel when they were alive changed me. The feelings I had when they died were so
overwhelming because of my love for them.
Every time I have lost someone I cared for deeply, my life changed in a massive way. I changed. I carried myself differently, made different choices based on my experiences and now connect with people on a deeper level than I would have if it had never happened.
Death gives us the perspective that life is finite. It is from this urgency which we grow. As
Marianne Williamson says, “Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has
fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our
knees hit the floor.”
Human brains cannot sustain the constant state of shock and numbness which we experience
from loss. It would mean giving up eating indefinitely and starving to death, or having a heart
attack from the constant stress of grief. After a few weeks our brains force us out of this
constant state, or we too would die.
We begin to search for meaning and make sense of everything. We feel disoriented and
disorganised. After a year or two things seem not quite as bad. The loss of a loved one becomes an easier burden to bear over time, but it is not the time which causes us to feel grief less often. It is the time that growth takes. That extra space we create inside ourselves is what gives us room to have joy again.
I recently discovered that there is a term used in grief psychology, called post traumatic growth syndrome. At least some, if not all of these outcomes happen to 100% of people who have experienced deep loss. They include:
· New opportunities
· New relationships, closer relationships and connection to those who suffer
· Increased emotional strength
· A greater appreciation for life in general
· Deepening in spirituality
Linley P.A., & Joseph (2004) Positive change in growth adversity
Every single one of us will experience loss in our lifetime. Saying it sucks is an understatement. Having that experience is part of being alive, it's also part of loving someone. How that person who is now missing in our lives made us feel will always have an impact on us and will always be there.
It’s amazing that the people we have lost in life continue to impact our growth years after
they’re gone. I wish I could feel grateful for the suffering itself, but I never want to experience
those feelings again. I am however grateful for all of the love I have been able to give and
receive because of the losses I have known and the person it has caused me to become.