Category Archives: grief

Actually, There Isn’t Anything Wrong with You.

I have experienced two significant losses in my life- losses which effectively shattered my worldview, robbed me of my sense of security and normality and forced me to question everything I once oriented my life around. I felt completely and utterly overwhelmed as the reality of the finality of the deaths of those I love so deeply began to sink in. I felt as though I was in hole of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness and despair, and the prospect of ever being able to climb out seemed highly improbable. I was terrified- I was no longer the happy, outgoing person I was before they had died, and I was plagued by the worry that I would never be again. I felt lost. I tried to reach out, but the responses I received felt judgemental and unsympathetic. Each time I would try to speak about my experience, people would become visibly uncomfortable, oftentimes rushing me to another topic of conversation, or attempting to comfort me with “words of wisdom”, highlighting the positive rather than focusing on the reality of what was. I began to loathe phrases like “Be strong” and “Keep your chin up.” That was not what I needed to hear. I needed someone to validate my pain, not try to rush me to a resolution. I needed to hear that however I felt was okay and acceptable.

Grief is a natural response to loss, but it has been my experience that it is often framed as something to be fixed.  It is seen as problematic- it is to be treated, and done away with as quickly as possible. We live in a death denying culture, best exemplified through workplace bereavement leave policies that attempt to quantify and contain grief to 1 to 3 “bereavement days,” after which we are expected to “be strong and soldier on.” Following the allotted time, we are no longer given the implicit permission to express our grief publicly, and if we do, there is surely something wrong with us. And so, we often retreat- isolating ourselves, becoming fearful of reaching out to others due to the judgement we may receive. Furthermore, we become judgemental toward ourselves and thoughts like “Why do I keep dwelling on this? There is something wrong with me,” “It has been weeks/months/years, I shouldn’t be feeling like this anymore,” “I need to get closure, so I can move on,” etc. begin to manifest, and we consequently begin to avoid and deny our grief for the sake of looking like we have put our grief behind us and moved on. But the reality is, the pain is still there, waiting to be heard and felt.

Grieving is not a timed process, as pain of such deep magnitude simply cannot be confined to a number of days, weeks, months or years. You will be sitting in the pain of your loss for the rest of your life. Of course, the pain will transform the more you move toward healing through expressing it, but it will always be there, because your love for the one who has died will always be there.

The normal you once had can no longer be found, because it no longer exists. The focus of the grief journey therefore, is not resolution but integration. It is about integrating the reality of your loss into your life, not putting it behind you.

Rest assured that your grief is not a problem to be fixed. There nothing shameful about it, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. However you feel is okay- today, tomorrow, and the countless days after that.

Why Death is One of Our Greatest Teachers.

 

Living life with the end in mind is the most powerful route to personal freedom and authenticity.

I absolutely love the work I do. Companioning individuals as they grieve the loss of a loved one has been the most powerful, heart-wrenching, enlightening, and meaningful “work” I have done. Bearing witness to one’s stories of loss and heartache is an absolute honour and privilege, for I know that delving into the depths of one’s grief is the hardest thing one can ever do.

Doing this work has made death a constant companion. It’s ever-present reality in my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the fact that one day my life will end. At first, admitting this was terrifying. It evoked panic and a feeling of being trapped, with no hope of escape- and truthfully, it still does on some days. But, with loss comes forced reflection and subsequent insight.

It is for this insight I am extremely grateful for it has made clear to me that this life is a gift, never to be taken for granted. We are privileged to be here and to be given the opportunity to become the fullest expressions of who we are.

Here a few of the radical shifts/insights that have occurred in my life:

  • Everything is a miracle.

Living with death as an all too tangible reality renders everything and every experience miraculous. The “little things” become the “big things”, and material things lose their value. We also begin to recognize the mere chance by which we were granted this life, and as such we can see with greater clarity that we are not here by accident.

  • Gratitude expands

When we recognize life is a privilege, gratitude expands. Everything of which our life is composed becomes “thank you worthy.” We become grateful for what we have, and especially for the people who surround us. Death also allows us to become less inhibited, and simply say what’s in hearts. It becomes easier to declare our appreciation for the people we love, for we recognize that there may not be another chance.

  • Love and connection becomes all that matters.

Death makes love, and our expression of it, our highest priority. It becomes infused in everything that we do, in every choice we make, and in every interaction we have with others. It allows us to recognize that our attentive presence is what counts, for it through this attentive presence that our love is conveyed. It becomes about fully engaging with every single moment by acknowledging that time is a finite resource. We recognize that one’s time (an expression of love) is the most precious gift one can give another, for the giving of one’s life in this way, signals that the other matters-and that’s all we want to know at the end of the day anyway.

  • You are here to be the fullest expression of yourself.

Authenticity becomes fundamental. Death allows us to disengage from the (false) fear-based thoughts that so often limit us, thus allowing us to become the fullest expressions of ourselves- in an unapologetic way. We recognize that are here to learn, to teach, and ultimately, to expand. As such, living out our passion becomes essential to our personal sense of well-being.

 

Grief is Love by Another Name.

Bouts of yearning, sadness, fear, desperation, anguish, hopeless, anger and helplessness overwhelm you like a tidal wave. Your world has come crashing down around you, and the prospect of lifting your head off of the pillow as the sun rises to welcome a new day is looked upon as an insurmountable task. Everything which you once regarded as beautiful now has a shadow cast upon it. The things that were once meaningful to you, are now no longer so.

You struggle to orient yourself to the new world in which you now find yourself. You didn’t ask to be here, and you despise everything around you. You tried everything you could to avoid getting here, but to no avail. You’re lost, scared and alone. You desperately search for a map, but eventually come to realize that there isn’t one to be found. You realize that you must chart your own course, not knowing how long it will take you to walk the path. Every once in a while your path intersects with another, and you walk together for a while, but eventually you part, for they must walk by themselves again, and continue to chart their own course.

As you walk, you ponder the “big questions.” You meditate on the meaning of life, of purpose, and your sense of identity. You think about the future in this new world and wonder if you’ll ever be able to embrace it as feverishly as you did your future in the old world. You wonder if this new world will ever feel safe as the old one did.

This is grief.

It is blanketed in the unknown, and chalk full of fear as a result. Each loss is territory yet to be navigated. There are no “rights” or “wrongs” in grief. There is no such thing as “should” or “shouldn’t.” Grief is an intensely individual experience which takes a vastly different form for each who endures it. It simply does not adhere to a set of pre-determined stages, and it certainly does not abide by a pre-set timeline.

Grief simply cannot be measured in this way because it is a matter of the heart, and such matters cannot be quantified. Grief is enduring and lifelong because it is a matter of love. We grieve for those to whom we are deeply attached, and such attachments cannot be intercepted- even by death. They are infinite and eternal.

So, do away with the notion that you must “get over” and find closure to your grief. You simply cannot get closure to love, for it is far too powerful to be contained. Grieve as your heart guides you to, trusting that you know what you need in order to adjust to this new world in which you’ve been placed. Trust that this love will carry you and guide you to a new sense of meaning, purpose, and identity. It simply requires you to surrender.