About the Author
Learning to Grieve
One day as I began my run, I anticipated it being the same as any of the other days that year. This particular day started like the rest, but a few minutes into it I fell and hit the ground with force causing a tremendous amount of pain. I was physically hurting, but I was also perplexed. How? This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, I had never experienced this on any of my runs. I had lost my focus and missed the slight imperfection in the sidewalk that caused great pain.
Life gives us imperfect moments that come out of nowhere and interrupt our daily routines. When my friend, who we will call John, heard of his fathers suicide he was finishing his dailey rountine that included work, family and this specific night small group. The news he received that evening was much like the imperfection I had experienced as I skidded across the sidewalk and something he couldn’t have prepared for. It took seconds for John to experience a life changing reality and he would spend the following months understanding the power of loss.
Like most who experience loss due to suicide the questions starting with “what if” were revisited often. The idea is that time, if used with more caution, could have changed so much. Instead of answers to these questions a person is reminded of their loss. When a person experiences loss in any area of their life such as divorce, loss of trust, loss of safety and/or death it causes a tremendous amount of pain, also known as grief.
Grief leaves us wounded, like the wounds, received that day on my run, it is uncomfortable and something many want to avoid. The wounds hurt long after the incident occurs, but that was my body’s natural response to bring healing. John, like most, wanted to ignore the pain and only allowed himself a week to pull himself up by the bootstraps and get back to life as he once knew it. He offered to others a polished version of himself, assuring himself and others that he was doing well with returning to work, he had been able to keep up with tasks at home and even made time for his friends. It appeared to others that he had successfully completed grief surrounding his father’s death.
John finally sat with me and allowed himself to acknowledge that his wounds, his pain and despair was starting to flow out into other areas of his life and he was exhausted trying to be better than he was. John described feeling weak and wanted to work harder not to be perplexed by these feelings. Grief doesn’t have a cookie cutter journey to healing. The truth for those experiencing grief is that it manifests differently in each individual.
The popular way to deal with grief is to push past it, with minimal time being lost. There is life to get back to. When the pain can’t be shaken quickly after the incident has occurred then it suggests to ourselves and others that we are weak and stuck in a downward spiral. The advice most remember from childhood when loss was present is to seek out distractions and ignore the emotions that are negative. Allow yourself time. A person needs time to cry, be angry, confused, exhausted, forgetful, and we can be so thankful that we are given these emotions to help bring healing.
John described his grief like being lost in a dark forest searching for the comfort, love and support that he once had to guide him when his dad was still alive. His dad provided a small light to guide him safely through the forest. Our losses can leave us feeling empty and lonely. It is important to be honest about where you are in your grief process and share your emotions and experiences with other people. Our connection with others will help that small flame that was started by the person or thing lost and ignite a campfire to further help you continue on the path of healing and out of darkness.
Grief is experienced differently for each individual. It is important to take time for yourself to help evaluate the impact the loss has had on you. When loss is experienced we often grieve for the loss in the moment as well as the opportunities in the future to be with or experience that special person or thing.The way you experience grief can include forgetfulness, sudden emotional outbursts, exhaustion, inability to complete tasks, isolation, insomnia and depression. These symptoms are not a one size fits all, meaning that the same person can experience each of these at different times in their grief process. .
We grieve because of what was lost, but we keep living and growing because of our love for what once was in our lives. It is important to know that even when the pain is still present healing is still taking place. Understanding grief is important because it doesn’t have an expiration date and if left unresolved it will be there waiting for you.
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