Alfred, Lord Tennyson (The Way of the Soul)
As a psychologist, I support people through grief and loss all the time. I understand that death is. Death is an inevitable part of life. Death is accompanied by sorrow. Death is hard. My role is to give comfort, support, and understanding. I aim to teach individuals how to live with sorrow without giving up hope for tomorrow. This is an arduous task.
Over the past year, my job has been more difficult because loss has touched my life in a very personal way. A year ago I lost my grandmother, someone who held a very special place in my heart. She taught me many things. However, she didn’t teach me how to live without her. This has been tough.
Over the last several months I have experienced more loss, and I have also witnessed many of my friends and family say goodbye to their loved ones. Some of these loved ones lived long beautiful lives, while others died suddenly and tragically. Death does not discriminate. It comes for some people well before they have had time to make their mark on the world and for people who have occupied the role of world leader. Children. Patriarchs. Matriarchs. Even when you know it’s coming, you will never be prepared.
The best that we can do is allow ourselves to grieve. When I tell my clients “You need to grieve,” they often ask, “How do I do that?” “What does that mean?” Allow yourself to be sad. Allow yourself to understand how this loss affects your life. Don’t run from your sorrow. You can’t drown it. You can’t hide from it. Grief will not be denied. Sadness is the natural response to loss; if you fight that response, then it will fight you back—and it will win.
Feelings must find some mode of expression. Either feelings will be expressed appropriately with our knowledge and awareness (thus allowing us to in influence when and how they are expressed). Or, if fought against, feelings will come out at some inopportune time in some inappropriate way that solely interferes with the good things in life (e.g., depression, anxiety, overeating, binge, drug use, retail therapy, promiscuity).
When you love someone and lose them, it forever changes your life. Be patient, tolerate the pain, and give yourself a chance to recover. Grieving involves being sad. Of course, no one wants to do it, but it is required to make room for what comes next-HOPE. Hope is the other side of loss. It is the part of grieving that people don’t consider right away. Sometimes it is hard to see the hope and excitement for the future. However, as long as you live there is something to be hopeful about-tommorow. To move forward in life we must have hope.
Time will eventually heal the wound of sadness. No, it will not disappear completely. There will always be evidence of the loss. But you can learn how to live with sorrow and still experience joy.
Honor the love that you have shared with real tears. Cry it out. If you need some motivation, watch a sad movie, listen to the blues, or take a trip down memory lane (pictures, videos, etc.). Ironically as I write this blog, I’m watching the movie Inside Out with my daughter. This movie is all about loss. Something that starts very early in life and continues throughout. Since we have to learn how to grieve from a very early age, we might as will get started.
Tears and sharing are always good coping strategies. Find comfort, lots of comfort. Find things that make you feel good, even in retrospect; not things that feel good now and make you feel horrible later, like excessive drinking or shopping. Talk to a friend, write in your journal, take a hot bath, listen to some soothing music, watch a funny movie, pray, exercise, meditate, get some couch time (therapy).
As I live with the absence of so many, I wonder about all the laughs we didn’t share. The many memories that will never be made. At the same time I challenge myself to live life to the fullest. I can’t go back. Time will not stand still. Don’t focus on what life could have been, think about what life can be, and get to work. I am charging each of you to do the same. Move forward. Live. Live with intention. Live your dreams. Live until you can’t live anymore.