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Hope Forward: Surviving and Thriving through Emotional Pain: Grief

Saturday, September 13, 2008


"Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color."
W.S. Merwin, "Separation"

If you have lost someone or something you loved, needed, depended on, or were attached to in some significant fashion, then you know that grief shapes you in the most profound ways. We suffer small losses all the time. We lose control, we lose our dignity, we lose our common sense sometimes. When we fight with a parent, a friend, a boyfriend, we can lose our way. When we change locations, schools, job, there is sense of loss as well.

There are big losses, little losses and old griefs that get ripped open when new ones hit. And then there is impending loss. If we think we might lose someone we love. If they are sick. If the relationship is bumpy. If we have to move away or move on for some reason. One of the hardest parts of loss is trying not to lose ourselves in the process. Grief can make you feel crazy. It can fill up all the cracks in your day with foggy hurt and longing. You can begin to think that you are losing your self, in all that pain.

Sometimes the pain seems so unbearable that you need to escape. Part of you wants to hold on to it because its a way of being close and connected to what you lost, who you lost. And part of you needs some relief. The truth, as I see it, is this: There is no escaping. You will move in and out of the pain, the anger, the fear, the shock, the regret, the longing, the tugging in your gut. And you will eventually move closer to peace. To life on life's terms. To some form of acceptance that what ever is lost is lost, and that you can and will have to create some sort of way of hobbling forward with your broken heart, on to better days.

I don't think that you ever really forget, or "let go," as people say. I think the missing parts just become part of your new self in some way. And you somehow let new things into old empty spaces. Time does shape things. It passes and passes and passes and you one day realize that the ache has dulled a bit and you can tilt your head toward the warm sun and breath somewhat better.

In the meantime, I was reminded by someone recently, that you can and most certainly should. decide to take good loving care of yourself. Especially when you least feel like it, or most feel like hurting yourself for relief. You can take long walks, have long talks with someone who will just listen. Warm baths, hot showers. Some quiet time in a garden somewhere. Lots of water, may seem silly, but agreeing to hydrate yourself is very loving. Tears are fine, and is laughter. Lots of rest, too. Sunshine. Fresh air. Deep breaths. Time alone. But. Not too much time all alone. Write. Write. Write. Poems, journals, lists, memories. Pray. Whatever words you can find, tell them to a Higher Power. And read. Anything that helps you to know that you are not alone in the universe and that if you can get through each day still in tact, then you are doing great.

Sometimes, when we have lost someone particularly close to us, we can think that they are such a major source of our happiness that we will never feel good again. We can think that without them as a source, we will be forever empty. I think this is both true and untrue. We have to be careful not to idealize what we lost, as we mourn it. And we have to know that what was good and unique is a tribute to that person or relationship. And it always will be, but that other sources of joy will creep back into our lives and we must let them.

There are so many other feelings that can complicate grief, like guilt and fear and regret, so I say, easy easy easy does it when you are going through. Be gentle to yourself. Go a day at a time, and you will, when the time is right, see a lift in the fog.

1 comment:

SaddleBumRN said...

Are you sure the fog is going to lift? I sure hope so! Its so dense right now I cant see my hand before my face. Death seems to be a part of my life which I cant shake. Just over 2yrs ago my brother committed suicide. Have gotten over that grief. Have put that in perspective. Now another tragedy in my life has occurred. Just over 6 months ago, a 4yo came into the ER where I was charge that night, with fever and cough and ended up resp arresting and dying after working on him for an hour and 30 minutes. Needless to say, I couldn't handle his death. Even though he wasn't my patient, I was in charge and should have been able to help save him. Then 18 days after that incident my best friend, was killed in a freak snowmobile accident. Only thing I can say Thank God it was instantly and she didnt have to suffer. She died on the same exact day my brother did only 2yrs prior. So needless to say April is not my favorite month.

I am having a real hard time letting go of both deaths. Kathys of course more. Since I have known her almost 25yrs. I cant stop crying even tho its been 6 months. Still very angry mostly at God. My therapist wants me to write a goodbye letter to Kathy, but I cant do that yet. I am afraid I will forget her. I think I am going to write to God and tell him how pissed off I am at him for taking her and telling him how much her family needed her at this time. How could he do this to them?

I am sorry for rambling like this. I need to go anyway, I am starting to cry again. Thank you for your shoulder. Great posting. very comforting. Will have to keep the tips in mind.