Today is September 11th. Today is a day of unease. We grieve those lost in the United States twenty-one years ago, but this year many people also grieve the recent loss of a monarch who served her country for over seventy years. We grieve as individuals for people lost, and we grieve as nations for the end of eras.
A wise person said, “The deeper the love, the deeper the grief.” “Grief is the final act of loving.” These two thoughts have helped me tremendously by finally accepting that grief is a part of love, a part of a relationship, whether grieving a pet, a person, or a way of life.
When I am grieving it helps me to remember that the love I felt is always there, the relationship is still a part of me, but the relationship has changed. That love my grief honors may be for my lost companion or it may be for a lost way of life but the loss is not of what we had or who we were. I will always carry with me what the relationship gave to me, it is a part of who I am. This takes time too but helps the grieving process. And it is a process.
When one has grieved for awhile, the heart enlarges and becomes more compassionate and steady. Becomes more embracing of life.
Or bitter and stuck.
Grief is a mixed bag.
Grief can also feel like shock, regret, shame, denial, anger, fear,
disbelief, depression, guilt, anxiety, and confusion. Beyond intense, overwhelming sadness, grief can fill you with SO many other emotions. Many of these feelings come and go, and some resurface over time. I was surprised how Covid brought on huge anxiety for me, since my first husband died of an unexplained virus after being in ICU on a ventilator for six weeks. (This was back in 1986, so certainly not recent). Just watching the news last spring brought on huge anxiety for me. Going to the grocery store can even be difficult, but it’s getting better.
If someone is struggling, drinking too much, isolating, depressed, reliving trauma, please encourage them, without judgment, to seek help. There are many grief resources and information online. Companion them. Give witness to their journey. Affirm their value.
Many people believe that grief should pass or dissolve with time. Deep grieving may remain in stops and starts. Grief may come like a tidal wave when the person is seemingly okay. They may fall into a puddle on an anniversary or holiday or in the middle of a grocery store. All experiences with grief are unique. No one should judge the pain of another and may add to the grief. Cliches should be thrown out too. Why should a person with grief take care of an ignorant person’s comments?
We honor our love when we grieve.
Never, ever let anyone dismiss your grief, tell you how to grieve, or to get over it. Never. Walk away. Usually, this is said or done by someone whose heart is small, awkward, and hasn’t been broken open…yet.
Each relationship is unique. So is the grieving.
Acceptance comes and with it the ability to companion, and walk with another stumbling in grief. The pain does not go away. It morphs into more richness and beauty for life and community.
Some of my favorite thoughts on grief come from author Anne Lamott. I love this quote from her Facebook page years ago:
“If people were grieving,” she said, “I would sit with them while they cried, and I would not say a single word, like “Time heals all,” or “This too shall pass.” I would practice having the elegance of spirit to let them cry, and feel like shit, for as long a they need to, because tears are the way home–baptism, hydration–and I would let our shoulders touch, and every so often I’d point out something beautiful in the sky–a bird, clouds, the hint of a moon. Then we’d share some cherries and/or M&M’s, and go find a little kid who would let us swim in his or her inflatable pool. I’d tell the sad person, “Come back next week, I’ll be here–and you don’t have to feel ONE speck better. It’s a come-as-you-are meeting, like with God, who says, “You just show up, my honey.””
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