There is no getting around it. If you want to move on with your life after loss, you have to grieve, and really feel all the feelings, no matter how painful, ugly, or snotty they may be.
Grief is inconvenient and disruptive, but so, so necessary. If you remain in denial about a loss or trauma, and you try to move on as if nothing happened, as if nothing changed, as if nothing could possibly take you down…you are in for a rude awakening. When you stifle the grief, you are merely pressing the “pause” button, and at some point, probably when it is most inappropriate and embarrassing, grief will press the “play” button for you.
Even when you do all that good work of confronting your feelings and being with your grief in an aware, conscious and compassionate manner, I am here to say you can still have an unexpected breakdown in the frozen food aisle of Trader Joe’s, you can still burst into tears at a friend’s dinner table at the mention of anything evocative, you may still have to walk into your boss’s office and admit you came back to work too soon. It happens. Be prepared to give yourself a freakin’ break.
Grief is the proof that you loved…perhaps a person who is now gone, certainly the life that you once had.
First you have to grieve. Then you have to grieve some more. And then you have to grieve again. You may keep grieving for quite a while. Grieving has no schedule. Grieving is not a linear process. Grief is most likely going be a lifelong companion. I have yet to meet anyone who has grieved who is willing to tell me they’re “all done”.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, in her book, “On Death & Dying,” described several stages of grief: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. I don’t believe she ever meant for her thesis about grief to imply that once you experienced all the stages, you could check grief off your To-Do list and get on with things, or that the stages happened in a particular order, or that stages would not be repeated.
I’m here to say I’ve experienced grief and I am still living with it. My son died eight years ago. I have been through all the stages MANY times and expect that any stage could show up again, probably when I am least prepared for it.
But I am grateful for my grief. Yes, it is a painful reminder of my loss, but it is also a reminder that I once had someone worth loving. I am not grateful that my son is dead, but I am so, so grateful that he lived. And someone wise once told me, “If it doesn’t hurt, it wasn’t love.”