Love is essential to the human condition, but to give and receive love also means to be to open to the inevitability of loss and grief. In my work I encounter families who are coping with the death of a loved one, and I have the privilege to help tell the stories and celebrate the lives of those who have passed.
This article is the first of a series, written with the hope that the contents may help in some way to guide and comfort those who find themselves on their own journey of grief. Earl Grollman wrote, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”
The grieving process is a complex one, however. No two people experience it the same way, or on the same schedule. It is okay to cry, it is okay to rage, and it is okay to feel temporarily numb. It is healing to allow yourself to feel and express whatever complex emotions you encounter. Hiding from your feelings, however, can have a negative impact on your well-being.
Healing can be found at times by being alone, and at times by being with other people. It important to find companions that are “safe,” who will provide support and a listening ear as you process your changing emotions.
Grief can also occur in waves, with levels that fluctuate over time. There will be moments when it comes flooding back with fresh intensity. Tracy, a mother who lost a teenage daughter, suggests than when those waves hit you just “ride them out” until it passes.
Over time it will become easier to cope with your grief, but it will remain, just as your love for the departed will remain. Cassandra Clare wrote in Clockwork Prince, “They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite.”
Jill Powell, a writer from the website “Walking With Drake”, described it as this, “Grief does change over time, but it is always there. At first it is totally life altering. The grief is so heavy that you can barely lift your head. Over time it becomes like a burn. Always there, but with varying intensity. Eventually it scars. The scar is always present. You can see it, you can feel it with your hand, but it doesn’t hurt anymore unless you press really hard….then it’s more like a numbness.”
Eventually, as unfathomable as it may seem at first, you will heal. You will also be different from how you were before. Well-known author Anne Lamott wrote, “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
Be kind to yourself as you undergo this process. Search for moments of beauty and comfort in your day. Most of all, remember this: love changes us, and loss changes us, but one day you will dance again.
~Jennifer Roberts Bittner, Funeral Celebrant & Life Tribute Specialist
A version of this post was first written for the website of Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service.