Working Through Grief & Loss

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Many of us delay the grieving process when faced with different kinds of loss. Whether it be death of a loved one, dissolution of an important relationship, loss of a job, or some other form of trauma creating grief; we often tell ourselves certain things that inhibits or stunts the grieving process. We tell ourselves that we must be strong and to ignore or most painful emotions. We tell ourselves that we can not look weak and that we have to be strong for others. We often feel that we can rely on our own faculties to get through this difficult times, yet we have found that this only prolongs our suffering.

For those of us who have experienced loss while in active addiction, we felt we had the perfect coping skill to “get through”. The alcohol and drugs numbed us, or so we thought, and we didn’t have to face our emotions as they attempted to come ashore in waves. Every time we picked up a bottle, or a pipe, or a needle we denied ourselves permission to feel and to heal.

The real resistance to grief is often the resistance to accept loss as a reality. The longer we held off on facing grief, the longer we tried to convince ourselves that the loss never happened. That it had been a bad dream, or someone else’s mistake. Every time someone else would bring the loss to our attention we might get angry because they were provided evidenced that the loss had in fact occurred. Often depression is triggered from the feelings of guilt and shame for the anger we experience.

Grief is complicated and comes in many forms. Some forms are familiar to us and some can come as a surprise. Feelings of overwhelming sadness and longing, moments of relief, and guilt for any interludes of happiness or humor. Inevitably what happens is we come to a pivotal point in the grieving process in which we are required to make one of two choices: continue to live in pain attempting to deny its very existence or begin to move forward. If we chose the former this choice to make will continuously show up. But if we chose the latter we begin to experience a change.

The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to grief is that we all grieve on our own terms. Much like a commitment to recovery, we make a commitment to grief in which we surrender to the process and allow it to unfold as it needs to. There are no specific timeframes and there is no specific path or method to the process. The best we can do is hold a sort of faith in a future where we will find ourselves happy and fulfilled. There is no right or wrong along the way. With that said, here are some tips that will help with the process.

  1. Develop a support system – whether it takes the form of a therapist, a support group, a healer, or some other form of creative process. Often a combination of these things proves most effective.
  2. Allow yourself to feel what you feel – there is nothing shameful about any of the emotions you experience while grieving. At times we can fear how others would perceive us if they knew all of the feelings or thoughts we have had in the wake of a loss. Know that all feelings and thoughts are natural to the process and none on their own define who you are on an authentic level.
  3. Begin to look at grief as your teacher – we often forget that in life pain offers use the exact guidance we need most. Without pain we would not know peace. Without sadness we would not know joy. Without loss we would not know gratitude for what we have. Without death we would not know life. Death’s reality is ever present for ourselves and everyone we care about. Therefore it can be through grieving someone’s death that we can really see how we our living our life.
  4. Commit to living in the moment – when we experience grief it is easy to be pulled out of the moment and into the past. Reliving memories of times shared together and emotions experienced within relationships. We dwell on the reality that we will never have these experiences once more with those we have lost. We dwell on a future in which our loved one is not a part of. When we find that we get stuck in these mental and emotional spaces we can learn to bring ourselves back to the moment. One of the most compassionate things we can do for ourselves in the healing process is to develop a mindfulness practice. Activities such as meditation, exercise, journal, music, and prayer among many others can bring our awareness back to present and allow us to show up in our daily lives.

There is a powerful realization on the other side of grief – what is real can never be destroyed. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. At the end of the day what are we really, within this physical realm, other than energy? The love we held and continue to feel can never be lost, tainted, tamed, or threatened. When we choose to move forward in our lives operating from our whole hearts, we bring forward all the beauty and magic of those that have moved on from our world. We carry with us the greatest parts of them and we allow them to live through our amazing experiences. We are them and they are us.