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Healing Grief and Loss
Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional distress we feel when someone or something we love is taken away. It can be a death, a loss of friendship, a job, a dream and also one’s health.
It’s painful and disorienting. We no longer know what to rely on or who we are. We’re thrown into an abyss of deep feeling, which comes with insecurity, aloneness, isolation and profound fear.
All loss brings us to the door of the unknown. It beckons us to allow our lives to be completely changed without a clear direction of what that change will bring, or who we will become in the process of healing.
Whatever your loss, it’s personal to you. No one can tell you how to feel or cope with grief.
A trio of writers wrote an article for HelpingGuide on coping with grief and loss. They explain that, “The pain of loss can feel overwhelming. You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to loss.”… “Whatever your loss, it’s personal to you.” … “It’s normal to grieve the loss you’re experiencing.”
The writers also go on to explain, “Whatever the cause of your grief, though, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain that, in time, can ease your sadness and help you come to terms with your loss, find new meaning, and eventually move on with your life.”
Moving on with your life doesn’t mean getting over the loss.
According to Jennifer Soos, a therapist who specializes in traumatic loss, we’re not supposed to get over the loss. “Closure isn’t really the thing that people think it is,” she says. “The belief that it exists and ought to be a ‘goal’ of grief is simply not helpful.”
So, how do we eventually “move on” with our lives?
I think that it’s a matter of welcoming our grief with a gentle hand, and celebrating the loved one who has passed away, the friend we no longer see, a lost opportunity, an unmet dream, or an illness that has changed our lives. We can also cherish the longing that the loss has left behind.
Losing a valued person, friend, pet, home, job is painful. But losing our longing – our deep desire – robs us of our soul. We need to stay in touch with our essence, especially when we’re in pain.
I believe that healing and moving forward with our lives is a matter of self-awareness and choosing to care for ourselves. It’s about knowing what we need so that our grief and our healing can be fully supported.
I recently heard of a mother who lost her 16 year old son to suicide. Friends and family have offered their condolences, however many have come in judgement of her son’s actions and overly sympathetic towards the stigma of suicide. She hasn’t joined them in their projections, but rather says that she wants to honour her son’s choice and celebrate his life.
When my stepdaughter lost her baby to stillbirth, she was besieged with sorrow. I feared for her, I worried, I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes I felt like I was drowning in her suffering, but then I chose to trust her experience and listened to what she needed. She needed to be heard, held, accepted, and to know that she wasn’t alone.
What helped me most was the conscious choice to celebrate her pain. I chose to welcome all of her experiences and recognize how sweet it was that she trusted me with her dark thoughts and raw emotions. She bestowed her need for support and understanding upon my love for her, and it was my responsibility not to try to rescue her.
When it comes to grief, sometimes the only available choice we have is to listen. This calls for a leap of faith – journeying through our losses, as well as supporting others who are in pain.
While the grieving process is unique to each person, the best way to offer support is to listen, suggests Donna Henes, a funeral celebrant and spiritual counselor who has helped mourners for more than 35 years. “The kindest thing to do is to listen, to ask questions and share memories.”… “Doing so confirms the depth of their grief and keeps the love alive.”
Being present to our depth of grief is paramount to being open and available for others, and for the natural unfoldment in our lives. It’s a gift to our soul-essence – to what makes us undeniably whole.
We all have our different ways of grieving. But while the loss never goes away completely, it shouldn’t remain center stage.
After the death of my mother in 1976, following a car accident that left her brother with a severe brain injury, my grandmother didn’t heal the grief and loss. Instead, she let her life slowly slip away into despair and guilt, and alcohol.
I not only grieved my mother’s death and my uncle’s trauma, but also my grandmother’s pain and my grandfather’s deep loneliness. He missed his wife, his friend, the woman he had shared his life with, who was now a shell of the person he once knew.
I also grieved my whole family’s denial, judgements and projections – for all the way they refused to acknowledge the pain and heal it.
So many families and relationships are broken by the loss of a loved one, a child, a stillbirth, as well as the loss of financial security, health issues, even family dynamics. In essence, it is their faith that is lost.
I believe that what is truly needed in moments of dark unease is an opening to Divinity.
It’s important that we find our way back to the beauty in our lives, and in one another. It’s essential that we reach beyond the suffering into renewed trust, and that we rejoice in the goodness and sweet innocence that is still here with us, yearning to take root and grow.
We are all made in the image of God/Goddess; we are sacred beings, resourceful and creative. We have so much to give, forgive, accept and surrender.
For a concise explanation of grief, the five stages of grief and its effect on sleep,
read Jennifer Walker-Journey article: Sleep and Grief
If you or a loved one are suffering from deep grief,
I recommend you work with a Grief or Trauma Counsellor.
With Spiritual counselling, you can expect a deepening of your
understanding of the loss, what is wanting to emerge in your life,
and how to support the change.
Feature image by Remi Walle