Grief Hurts

Grief is the pain associated with loss. It’s normal to want the pain to stop, to want it to go away. It’s normal to feel as though you’ve been in pain for long enough. “Isn’t it time yet to feel better? When do I get to feel better? Am I EVER going to feel better?”

Yes, you are going to feel better, but no one can say when. Although we all experience the pain of grief as a consequence of loss, our responses to that loss and the way we handle the pain vary widely. Every loss is unique. There is no way to predict how long it will take you to begin to feel better, for it to hurt not quite so much. Anywhere from weeks to years. Yes. I’m sorry. It could take years. And, might I add, there is nothing wrong with you if it takes a long time.

What is “better” anyway? For me, it was the ability to talk about my son, to look at his photos, to encounter someone or something out in the world that reminded me of him, without my combusting into tears.

It started to happen less frequently after the first year or so, but it took at LEAST 5 years before I was in reasonable control of my tear ducts. And every now and then, something or someone triggers a profound memory, and I am caught completely off guard. Even almost ten years later. I may judge myself, “Really, Celenia? Can’t you keep your shit together after all this time?”  And then I remind myself, “normal, normal, normal.” It is not a flaw in my character; it is a manifestation of my humanity.

Not that not crying is the endgame. For me, it is just one indicator of how I am coping. I think a more important indicator is one’s willingness and ability to allow joy back into one’s life. Does anything tickle your funny bone any longer? Can you be happy in the face of others’ joys? Or is it still “All Sadness All The Time”?

Give yourself permission to be happy again. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’ve locked ourselves into a permanent state of miserable mourning. As if it’s what we deserve because we have the audacity to still be alive when our loved one is not. This is twisted thinking. If you are still here, breathing, taking up space on the planet, then you are entitled to the complete human experience – with its pain AND its joy.

I found that the only way to deal effectively with my pain was to have it, to be with it, to feel it. It was NOT easy. It was painful! When we are in pain, our natural inclination is to STOP it, whatever it takes, and right now, please. So why on earth would anyone invite the pain in and ask it to be fully felt?

The answer is counter-intuitive. The sooner you can welcome and embrace your pain, the more efficiently it dissipates. We put a lot of energy into, and cause ourselves a lot of stress by resisting, denying and distracting from it. What we resist persists – a cutesy little phrase that would normally make me gag, but which I have found to carry enormous truth.

Our losses do not go away. We carry them with us for the rest of our lives. My son will continue to be dead until the day I die. The grief we experience as a result of loss is painful, and that pain can last a long time. There is nothing wrong with you if it does. Just remember to keep the door open for joy to walk back into your life, and pay very close attention for the signs that it might be making its way home. When it knocks on your door, welcome it with open arms.

What have you done to ease your pain due to loss and grief? What worked for you? Please share in the comments. Maybe it will work for someone else too!

Title Photo by burak kostak on

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