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Getting Grief Right

getting grief right

The end of 2014 contained a few hard months for my loved ones; I had some that lost babies, some that lost relationships. So when I read this article, I thought it offered such light for anyone going through a grieving process. There’s so much pressure oftentimes in our society to move on quickly, to pull oneself together for the outside world before one’s inside world agrees. I thought it was a beautiful reminder that healing isn’t a linear trajectory, but a process with ups and downs, that sometimes takes longer than we ever expect it to. And that’s merely a testament to the love lost. A few excerpts:

Very gently, using simple, nonclinical words, I suggested to Mary that there was nothing wrong with her. She was not depressed or stuck or wrong. She was just very sad, consumed by sorrow, but not because she was grieving incorrectly. The depth of her sadness was simply a measure of the love she had.

A transformation occurred when she heard this. She continued to weep but the muscles in her face relaxed. I watched as months of pent-up emotions were released. She had spent most of her energy trying to figure out why she was behind in her grieving. She had buried her feelings and vowed to be strong because that’s how a person was supposed to be.

Now, in my office, stages, self-diagnoses and societal expectations didn’t matter. She was free to surrender to her sorrow… Her loss was now part of her story, one to claim and cherish, not a painful event to try to put in the past.

To be sure, some people who come to see me exhibit serious, diagnosable symptoms that require treatment. Many, however, seek help only because they and the people around them believe that time is up on their grief. The truth is that grief is as unique as a fingerprint, conforms to no timetable or societal expectation.

The long road begins after the last casserole dish is picked up — when the outside world stops grieving with you. Mary wanted to reassure her family, friends and herself that she was on the fast track to closure. This was exhausting. What she really needed was to let herself sink into her sadness, accept it.

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them,” said the writer Isak of  Dinesen. When loss is a story, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no pressure to move on. There is no shame in intensity or duration. Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning and all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who died.

I would recommend the entire article, if you’d like.

P.S. Related: my fave quote on heartbreak, and how to ask the right questions.

{Photo via Gavin Worth}

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