Grief is something that I get asked about a lot and the reason for that is because it does affect all of us.
Grief is one of those things in life that none of us are going to avoid experiencing. We’re all going to experience grief at some point in our lives.
One of the most common reasons people come to me when they’re overwhelmed with grief is to seek some level of reassurance that they’re “doing it right”.
When we get really overwhelmed and we have really intense feelings, we often go to this “cliff edge” in our minds, where if we go over that we’ve totally lost control, we’re going to fall apart and we’re going to break. The other side of that cliff seems like a real problem – “if I get any worse, if this doesn’t go away, if I don’t manage this – what’s going to happen?” We start to view our experience of grief as a problem, and unfortunately this is something that none of us are immune from.
One of my favourite quotes that really helped me when I was grieving – I lost my dad to cancer when my daughter was 9 months old – was Alfred Lord Tennyson “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”.
The way I got peace of mind from that was the idea that I wouldn’t be feeling this pain had I never experienced love, and I’m grateful for experiencing love.
Love is what is at the core of all of us and is what is actually behind the overwhelm, the stress, the overthinking, the worry, the concern – everything that seems to be a problem in life – right behind that is love.
There are theories, that as a psychotherapist I have learned and studied, on “how to grieve” and the stages of grief and loss. They are there to give us structure to something that isn’t very tangible because it’s a feeling and an experience, and often people find reassurance in structure. They find the structure of the stages of grief reassuring that they’re on the right path, but actually, the right path is YOUR path.
When we lose some one we then only experience the grief or any feelings towards them now in this moment, through our thinking. We are always thinking and therefore we’ve always got access to those feelings.
It’s been 12 years now since my dad passed away. Have I finished grieving? Have I grieved? I don’t really reflect in that way. If I think long and hard enough about my dad, that grief and feeling of loss would come as though it was yesterday.
I can remember once being sat in a church for something to do with my daughter’s school, and I remember hearing a song or a hymn and it was something that had played at my dad’s funeral. I felt emotional because I instantly began thinking about my dad, and about my dad’s funeral.
Someone of a much older generation asked me, “how come you’re upset?”. I remember saying to her “oh just because that songs reminds of my dad who passed away”. She asked how long ago it had been since he had passed away, and I told her that it had been nearly ten years. She said “Oh, I thought you were going to say last week!”.
When I think about that it makes me laugh, because we have this dialogue of how it should be, and very innocently, her opinion was “are you not over that now?!” and that’s because we misunderstand that actually our thoughts create our feelings, and so it doesn’t matter if something happened five minutes ago, a week ago, a year ago, twenty years ago – we’re ALWAYS experiencing through our thinking.
And so this is why we don’t need to concern ourselves too much with “am I grieving properly” because no amount of theory and no amount of getting it right is going to make you immune to however much further down the line your thinking creates feelings – and we can access those at any time.
People say time is a healer but for me, as time goes on and more happens and more changes and there’s more filling my mind, I can tell you now that at no point am I not able to sit and really think about my dad and those feelings come back thick and fast.
Someone might say in response to that “oh you’ve not grieved properly then”. I have grieved. I have experienced a heck of a lot of feelings around grief, loss, frustration, fear – all of that stuff.
I want you to know this:
However you manage, is just perfect.
However you process, is just right.
If in amongst all of the grief you find yourself wandering off in your mind and experiencing love and joy, and enjoying yourself, don’t feel guilty for that. Don’t feel like you need to go back to the thoughts of grief because that’s what you’re “supposed” to be doing at the moment.
On the other side of grief and loss is love.
There are no rules.
There is no set way grief has to be done.
It’s going to come and go in waves, because that’s what feelings do. Our state of mind is never permanent.
If you are in the thick of grief right now, don’t question it. Don’t compare yourself to others and their grief. Just know that whatever you’re experiencing right now is exactly how it’s meant to be for you. It’s not permanent.
Love Sarie x
Prefer To Listen?
You can listen to my podcast, A Message About Grief here: