Let’s talk about grief. If there is anything I have learned over the last 2 years, it is that grief is complicated. Grief is a multifaceted, uncomfortable, and inevitable experience that we will all face. When I look back over what life has thrown my way recently, I see so much joy and so much grief – simultaneously.
I have become an expert at recognizing what grief feels like inside of my body. I know where my body holds the grief – I can identify the location, the internal sensations, the intensity. I can feel it come and I can feel it go.
When thinking about grief, there is not a simple way to explain it to someone else. There are so many types of grief. There are so many causes of grief. No experience is the same for anyone. Grief is unique, just like our own fingerprints. How we experience grief is unique. The process is individualized from beginning to end.
What I have learned to be true about grief is that it doesn’t just go away. The feelings and missing pieces stay. I feel the impacts of loss on a regular basis and that is challenging sometimes. However, what is also true about grief is that living life with grief gets easier. I learn how to move and continue living despite the losses. I learn how to value what’s important, how to be present, how to let go of what doesn’t actually matter. I learn what it means to love and be loved.
Grief is hard and sometimes makes me want to quiet down and keep the deep love I have for people under wraps. Sometimes I want to protect my heart from the possibility of experiencing loss, but that isn’t what living life looks like.
Grief means that we loved well. Grief means that we did it right. Grief means that we were lucky. Grief means that we cared deeply. Grief means that we are human. Grief means that we can love well and care deeply again.
The types of grief I have experienced over the last 2.5 years are:
- Normal grief – death of a loved one or a ‘normal’ loss.
- Anticipatory grief – grieving the loss before it happens
- Cumulative grief – one loss after another
- Secondary grief – the things you lose because of a loss
- Disenfranchised grief – grief that others don’t feel is a substantial loss
- Collective grief – grief experienced by a group of people
- Traumatic grief – violent death or unexpected death from a traumatic event
That list looks heavy. And it was. I think the last 2.5 years have been the hardest years I have ever experienced. I think what we often forget about is that sometimes grief isn’t just what happens to us. Sometimes, grief is due to things that we choose.
What I haven’t said yet is that some of that grief was grief that I chose. Yes, I experienced loss of loved ones, traumatic losses, collective grief, cumulative grief, and a lot of heartbreak. But in the middle of all of that, I also chose myself. My health. My wellbeing. My family. My future.
Those kinds of choices also bring grief. The grief of leaving a job and my friends. The grief of ending friendships that were no longer moving in the direction I was trying to go. The grief of ending relationships with family members because it was no longer safe to continue on. All of that is very real too.
Navigating grief has been challenging… my choices or not. Everyday I have to make the conscious effort to keep choosing myself over the feelings of wanting to sleep the day away because of grief. I do not ignore the grief. I let it come, acknowledge it for what it is, and let it pass. Then I keep steppin. Every single day. Some days that’s harder than others. Some days I still feel angry, disappointed, heart broken, frustrated… but I let it come, and then let it go.
I know that I am beginning to walk on the other side of a lot of the grief. I can drive by places, think about people, look at pictures.. And I can smile and laugh. There is so much clarity. The fog is clearing. That is what healing grief means to me. That is what living life means to me. The ability to hold all of that at the same time. The tears and the laughter. Missing people, missing seasons, missing experiences… and it being okay. Not ignoring, not gaslighting, not denying. And it being okay.
Let’s talk about grief.