Let’s talk about Grief for a minute. I like to think I know a little about it.
As humans we deal with Grief in so many different ways. We may allow it to enter in all of its generous glory. Embracing it, almost welcoming it as a release. Knowing that accepting heartache is part of the healing process.
Or we could be the person who doesn’t allow it in, who keeps it repressed, hidden inside where it won’t draw attention. Seeing emotion as a sign of weakness, or afraid that honouring it will become too over-whelming.
We may revert to the good old, handy British Stiff Upper Lip; ‘I’m fine, I’m strong, Keep Calm and Carry On…’. That way we don’t draw attention to ourselves, don’t invite the justification to feel.
In my eyes, grief is an extremely important emotion, one that must have a place in life, no matter what our religious belief or view on life and death. No matter what others want to witness or how they expect us to cope, we must own our grief.
I believe that by repressing it, by covering it up with British Reserve when it wants to be known, when it wants to break free, is an invitation to problems later in life. ‘Emotion’ = ‘energy in motion’, all feelings, whether happy, excited, sad, angry or devastation, must flow through us.
When we hold onto emotions they fester away like an untreated wound, until one day the decay dominates and dealing with it becomes inevitable – by which time it’s grown and infiltrated other parts of your life, and also your physical body, in ways you may not even realise.
Grief has no time limits. You may feel like you are over it, have waved it goodbye, when all of a sudden it turns up unexpectedly again. THAT IS OKAY. Embrace it, let it show itself to you. Let it in and then let it out. Ebb and flow, ebb and flow.
We are not weak because we grieve. We are strong because we know that it is all part of the cycle – of the circle of life, we allow it to come and we allow it to flow, we allow our souls to breathe and grow.
When I was 9 years old my father died. I was not encouraged to grieve. In fact to try and protect me from all that was going on I was sent to school the next day. He died on Sunday and at 9am the next day I was at school. I didn’t go to the funeral because it was felt that I should be spared the anguish, so again I went to school instead. I never said goodbye to my dad.
When my mother died at 56 years old I was just 17. I thought, because of what had been instilled in me as a 9 year-old, that I just had to get on with it and the pattern continued – my mum died on the Saturday and on the Monday I was in work as usual. Stiff Upper Lip. It was quite the conversation stopper over perfunctory ‘what did you do at the weekend?’ chat!
I finally cried 6 weeks after the funeral. I broke down one day when I was out with my boyfriend at the time. Poor lad didn’t know what to do with me. I then felt guilty and I pulled myself together and got on with life. Except, not really. Because grief won’t let up. The more you push it back the more it will manifest itself in all kinds of unhealthy ways.
At the age of 40 I went for some counselling and with guidance, all my previous pain came tumbling out. Thirty years’ worth in one go. I can tell you that that hurts far more than crying in public and a week off work would have done all those years before.
Being allowed, or allowing ourselves to express our grief in whatever shape or form that shows up for us is as important as breathing.
It is healing, it teaches us about ourselves and enables us to grow. Suppressing grief puts us into survival mode, and the longer it is left, the more destructive it becomes.
You don’t have to wail and shout – but you absolutely should if you want to – but you do have to acknowledge it.
If this has raised any issues for you, don’t hesitate to contact me and we can talk it over xxx