Several months ago, long before I was quite ready to read it, a friend gave me a cute, little butterfly pin and a book about grief, Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss by Deborah Morris Coryell. At the time, I was touched by the pin and immediately attached it to my purse, but when I began to read the book, I just couldn’t absorb the information. I got no further than the first few pages of the first chapter, and none of it stuck. As I said, I wasn’t ready for it.
Fast forward to this past weekend when I saw the book sitting on the bench in my bedroom where I had left it and suddenly felt it was time, that I was finally prepared enough to read what Ms. Coryell had to say. It had come highly recommended to the woman who gave it to me from a friend of hers who said it was of tremendous help to her during her own grief the year before.
(No disrespect to Ms. Coryell, but I have chosen not to quote her book. Rather, these words represent the way I have interpreted her words… which is really all that matters, right? – how I’m using them, and how they’re helping me? It all leads back to that perspective thing.)
One of the first things that struck me was in relation to the reason (according to her) that most people struggle with loss. As children, when something happens to us – some loss we experience – we cry, we get upset, we may have a world-class tantrum, then we move on. We accept the loss as “natural” and we don’t internalize it. It’s a very “in the moment” event.
As we get older, we try to shield ourselves (and others) from loss and all form of unpleasantry and so we tamp down these losses and internalize them, but hardly ever deal with them directly as they happen. What ends up occurring is that somewhere down the road, another loss happens that forces us to deal with it, and then we are compelled to deal with all the previous losses that we tucked away for “later”.
It turns out that I’ve been instinctively doing what she considers the “best” method of healing. I’ve been feeling everything, as I have attempted since this all started, which apparently actually helps to heal. So, apparently what people have pointed out as my “strength” is actually childlike behavior. Interesting, isn’t it?
It isn’t easy. It is definitely not pleasant. And it would certainly be much less painful if I chose not to deal with my grief until I was ready (much like reading the book). The problem with that mindset is that I’d likely never be ready to pick up my grief down the road on my own. Not without another loss staring me in the face.
But as I’ve mentioned before, my grief is already like a constantly filling bucket that chooses to empty itself (and my tears) whenever it gets full. If I were to prohibit this from happening by preventing the release process from completing (even temporarily), all that would truly be happening is that my grief would slowly, but continuously, leak out into my personal life, not allowing me to ever truly enjoy anything until one day the dam I built to hold back the floodwaters would burst, drowning me and everyone around me in a sea of misery.
Is it not better, then, to choose to deal with one’s grief as it happens, genuinely feeling it… staring down the monster and not allowing it to get any larger? Because if you don’t deal with it, it will grow. In this way, you are in control of your own healing, rather than letting circumstances dictate when and where your carefully constructed wall will tumble, because as unmanageable as it may seem right now, it could be exponentially more difficult later on.
The steps may be simple, but they are not easy. Don’t confuse the two. You must feel the pain before you can even begin to deal with it in order to heal.
Although it may sound like a trite sentiment, it occurs to me that this whole concept can be summed up with a simple mantra (sometimes attributed to Mary Roush) that I will definitely be using on a daily basis – Feel. Deal. Heal.
Three small words with an entire army of restoration behind them. Perhaps they can help you, as well.
© 2016 Many Faces of Cheri G All Rights Reserved