Each of us have grieved in some way or other for someone or something we have lost. The deeper the grief, the greater the loss. Without having loved deeply, the loss would be not have been great. It is only because we love that we have loss and that is the human condition. In loving so deeply we taste heaven, we live a full and great life full of meaning and purpose, and in losing that love we fall greatly into grief. But one happens because of the other; we lose what gave our lives meaning because we loved with fullness and abandon.
But grieving happens for more than just loss. We grieve for things we never had or didn’t get, for what might have been and for grievances and wrongs done to us. We grieve when our understanding of our place in the world has changed and we need to change with it. To grieve is to adapt; to make whole again after a great change has occurred. The process of it may seem to be all about suffering, but there are clear steps to grieving and it’s a process best done consciously, or else we risk carrying our grief with us for years, sometimes decades, and, if that happens, it can permanently shape how we see the world.
So, what is grieving and how is it done well and in a good way?
Grieving is a personal and natural process of accepting a great change that has occurred in our lives. Grieving will happen of it’s own accord provided we don’t have blocks in the way preventing our grieving from happening. One common block is not knowing the grief is there needing to come out and so we don’t accommodate that need in ourselves. Another is when we block off chunks of grief and put it behind firewalls within us, because it seems we can’t process it or we don’t know how, or we don’t want to because it is inconvenient to our understanding of the world or how we think about the people we love to face the reality that caused the grief. Sometimes a grief is the loss of a person’s life, but sometimes it can be the loss of how a person was and no longer will be again; a husband, able-bodied, straight. Sometimes we block our ability to grieve because to grieve for the thing lost is to accept that that thing or person is never coming back, and to grieve is to hold onto a part of them. To grieve, then, is to lose that person or thing all over again.
Grieving will change how we see the world and that can be scary. It can change us and our circumstances and our families, so a lot can be at stake. Being in denial can be a calming, temporary placater but is never an alternative to facing the truth about our new reality. In this case then, often, the challenge around addressing our grief is harnessing the will to do it. We can be tired of grieving, sad that we have been sad for so long. Getting up the will to actively grieve can seem too much to bear and that can prevent us from processing our grief. Another way of preventing the natural course of grieving is suppressing grief when it gets triggered if we happen to be in an environment where it isn’t socially acceptable for us to engage in our grief at that moment; for example, we may feel self-conscious crying in the supermarket or on the street, or at a friend’s birthday party, etc., and so we shut that down.
Straightforward ways to clear these blocks is to ask ourselves if we have unprocessed grief, and if we have reluctance to processing that grief, and then not to leave the triggering of our grief to moments outside of our control. In other words, not to allow our grieving to be unconscious, but to take control of how and when we grieve by making that process conscious.
In the next part of this series, we'll talk about the process of conscious grieving.
Blessings to you on your journey.