Let's face it: loss hurts. The death of a loved one, the end of a romantic relationship or friendship, financial hardship, changing jobs - these are all common losses we experience. Sometimes, it can seem like life is a series of losses. In our fast-paced, over scheduled culture, it's easier to keep going without pausing to mourn the cumulative losses we face in our lifetimes. Who wants to take time to feel sadness, anger, guilt or emptiness?
Our society has become very grief avoidant. For example, most employers give three days of bereavement leave following the death of a close relative. We are expected to take a few days off, grieve and then return to work renewed and ready to pick up where we left off. We are encouraged to stuff our grief down deep inside so that we can be productive at work and remain engaged with life. I often talk to bereaved clients who intentionally stop their tears from flowing, drag themselves out of their houses to work, to school or to the community center to become immersed in anything but how they are feeling. Or, the exhaust themselves with exercise in order to be able to collapse into bed at night and avoid thinking about their loss.
It takes courage to open up to grief, to intentionally slow down and sit with its ugliness. And grief isn't just ugly. It's messy. It's unpredictable. It doesn't have neat stages, contrary to popular wisdom. Grief can be raw, unadulterated pain if it's allowed to express itself. And human beings don't like to feel pain, especially when the pain is holistic and affects our thoughts, feelings, behavior and spirit.
Experiencing the pain that comes as a natural reaction to loss is what we must do in order to move through the process and eventually heal. Moving through the pain is made easier with good social support, coping skills and self care. I would argue that even with those in place, something more is needed, and that's courage. The courage to know that perhaps it will be worse before it's better. Or that no matter how many people are willing to help and be supportive, the grief process is a path that ultimately must be walked alone. The courage to believe that you will be okay. The courage to keep reaching for life during the darkest days.
In the coming months, we will be sharing stories, experiences and hopefully inspiration for those trying to courageously live with loss. We encourage you to join our discussion by posting your own comments and sharing what you have encountered as you journey through grief.
This blog entry was written by Becca White, Arbor Hospice Grief Support Coordinator. You can contact her by commenting below or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post was inspired by the writings of Judy Tatelbaum, grief expert and author of The Courage to Grieve and You Don't Have to Suffer. Visit her website or her Amazon.com page.