If I’m honest, I’ve literally blocked out the period in my life where I experienced the greatest loss and deepest grief.
I was walking on the boardwalk with a friend last week and she said, “I want someone to tell me how to let go of trauma. You know, when you have this horrific painful experience or lose someone you love so much and you just can’t get over it.”
I seem to be surrounded by friends experiencing some deep losses. Putting down a beloved pet who has been part of their family for years, losing a parent, the ending of a job/life they gave so much too over the years. And there is no easy way through it, no magic pill to ease the suffering and painful emotions that swirl around us in our darkest hour.
When I was going through what I like to call, “The years we shall not speak about” after the birth of my daughter, I read a ton of amazing books and wrote my way through it. One of my favorite authors is Elizabeth Gilbert (who wrote Eat, Pray, Love). After she lost her best friend, partner and soulmate, Rayya she shared this beautiful post on Instagram on what she’s learned about grief. When people asked how she was doing after Rayya died, she spoke about just getting through the moments.
“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope.”
I wanted to write about grief this week to give you hope if you’re in it.
Grief if unpredictable.
It’s a moment by moment experience. You have good days and bad. Sometimes an hour passes where you forget about everything and find yourself laughing with friends over something so mundane and 20 minutes later, you’re balling your eyes out wondering what the hell just happened.
Grief comes in waves.
When someone we love dies, months, even years can go by where we feel OK. Then a song, a smell, a memory sparked during a casual conversation with another person that reminds us of them can bring a torrent of grief on like a tsunami, crashing around us so we can’t escape it.
I think our natural response to grief is to try to run from it… keep busy, shove the feelings down. I used to say to myself, get on with it already.
Well meaning friends and family might tell us, “You’ve gotta pick yourself up and move on”. I get that. They don’t want us to suffer. It’s hard to see someone we care about suffer so much and we think we’re being helpful.
But that’s not what people need to hear when they’ve suffered a huge loss or are going through something painful.
What they need is for us to hold space for them. Hold space for their feelings and their grief. You don’t have to fix it or ever have experienced what they’re now going through. You just need to acknowledge that you see them.
When I was going through my divorce, my friends and family were the best. Nobody tried to tell me to get over it. What I remember needing most and hearing often from them was,“Yea D… this sucks. It’s gonna be hard for awhile. What do you need?”
That’s it… just “what do you need?” can mean everything to someone. Because really, what can someone do for us when we miss someone we loved so much or or we lost our job or some unimaginable tragedy has overtaken our life? Isn’t it great when someone says, “I see you. What do you need?”
Here’s something to know about grief… You can’t busy yourself through it. You can’t numb it. You can’t expect yourself to “get over it” in the timeframe you or even other people expect you too. A broken heart doesn’t just seal back into what it was.
What you can expect is that like wound, it will heal in time. It will hurt less. It won’t feel so raw one day. There will be some lingering scars from the experience, there will be a hole in your heart for the person you lost that nobody and nothing will ever fill. But you will get through it.
I don’t have a guide book for getting through every experience but these 6 things are what worked for me:
- Cry it out – You wanna cry for the tenth time today? Go for it. You’re not a big fat baby. You’re sad and you’re grieving. Show yourself some grace and allow the emotions to pass through you. Whoever said crying is for babies can fuck off.
- Don’t medicate – OK a Xanax can really take the edge off if you can get your hands on some, but I found heavy drinking or doing anything else unhealthy to numb myself was a temporary fix that left me feeling worse.
- Working out – Long walks, kickboxing, Cross-fit or any physical activity I could do in a group setting worked wonders. First, it got me out of my head and around other people and better yet, it kept me focused on something else besides being sad. Plus there’s nothing like kicking a punching bag’s ass.
- Talk therapy – Talk talk talk and talk some more so you can process what you’re feeling. You know why talking helps? Because eventually you get tired of listening to your sad story even when it’s really sad and things suck! #winning. Plus talking is how we work through the complicated mess of emotions we’re going through. My friends and family have always been my greatest support system and when I needed something more, I found a great therapist and was led to some amazing healers.
- Writing – Journaling your feelings, writing a letter to the person you’ve lost, joining an actual writing group are amazing therapeutic ways to deal with grief. Some of the greatest books out there came from authors who were going through a dark night of the soul or something difficult and wrote their way through it.
- Show yourself some grace – This is not the time to beat yourself up over how you’re handling things or take on other people’s stuff or do things you don’t have the energy to do. Cancel social obligations if you want to, take some personal days at work and ask for help. One of the greatest things I learned when I needed to ask for help was how to receive. Not something I was ever great at and one of the biggest blessings that came out of falling apart for a little while.
You may not be OK today, but one day you will.
Grief is in two parts.
The first is loss.
The 2nd is the remaking of life. ~ Anne Roiphe
Get the emails everyone loves to read!
My weekly blog is chock full of raw, honest, tell it like it is topics that get people talking.
You'll get an email from me about once a week. You can unsubscribe anytime.