Giving Yourself Permission To Grieve

Giving Yourself Permission To Grieve

We all experience grief in many forms. The loss of a job, relationship, house, loved one, pet, and even the loss of our youth. If we pause for a moment and reflect on the losses in our life, we may discover that they happen almost daily. My earliest memory of loss was when the family dog passed away. She died rather unexpectedly. Reflecting back, I recall the sound of my brother wailing in the hallway. That was the first time I was aware of the sound of grief. My brother was expressing the inner ache that he felt.

The first time i felt grief inside my body was at the age of thirteen. It felt as though my stomach had swallowed my heart in one gigantic gulp. This natural feeling of grief was triggered by the loss of my grandpa. He was an honorable man and I intuitively knew, as most of us do, that life would never be the same. When a loss occurs in our life, it’s often abrupt. It is almost impossible to imagine what life will be like without something until it is gone. That is the difficulty of loss, it can’t be processed with the mind alone; it demands to be felt with the heart.

With all of these great losses occurring almost daily, how do we stay a float? Grief isn’t exactly trendy. However it is natural and necessary. I have attended many grief groups and I believe there are two common themes

      1. We all grieve. It is one of the most common experiences that connect us as humans.
      2. Each of us grieve in our own unique way. Giving ourselves permission to grieve is one of the biggest gifts we can offer ourselves.

As we navigate through the losses of life, it is important to remember we are not alone. Where there is life, there is loss. Letting grief move through us unchoreographed is key.

Here are some tips I recommend when grief arises:

    • Feel your grief. This may manifest through tears, screaming into a pillow, or silence.
    • Attend a local grief support group. Healing happens in these rooms, I am living proof.
    • Talk about your grief with someone you love and trust. There is powerful release when we share our feelings out loud.
    • Take care of yourself. You may not feel like resuming the activities you did before the loss and that is perfectly okay. Take time to listen to your body, it will guide you through the process.
    • Dedicate time everyday to be present with your grief. This could be sitting down for 30 minutes to cry, journal, and feel whatever needs to be released for that day.
    • Don’t rush your healing. Grief has no timeline and it is important to honor the inner healing process.
    • And most importantly, remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It is a highly individual process and it looks different for everyone.

These words were once told to me and I would like to pass them on to you:

“Life will never be the same after a loss, but it can be good again.”

Grief is a journey, it demands a lot of us, and it comes in waves. Ride the waves. In the presence of grief, the astonishing capacity of one’s love is uncovered.

Grief Expressed Out Loud

Grief Expressed Out Loud

The writer, Martin Prechtel, has a wonderful quote about grief:

“Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.”

When I think of grief, the image of an arrow piercing through the center of a heart comes to mind. The arrow instantly numbs everything, sending the heart into a state of shock. The reaction may be to pull the arrow out immediately, but it doesn’t budge. The arrow stays in for a period of time and everyone notices. People comment about it and offer condolences to help ease the pain. The heart remains paralyzed.

After some time, the initial shock wears off and the heart begins to soften again. As the heart softens, the arrow loosens. Soon enough, the arrow pulls free from the chest.  Once the arrow is removed, the person has the opportunity to catch their breath, something they haven’t done in weeks, or even months.

No more arrow, no more visible pain. What’s left is a big gaping hole.

This is when the grief work begins.

I recently read a facebook post written by a friend who lost her 10 year old daughter after a long battle with Cystic Fibrosis.  She wrote openly about her feelings and concerns when it comes to talking to others about her daughter. She stated that she doesn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Most importantly, she wants to convey the large impact her beautiful daughter had on her life.

It is wonderful that my friend was able to express her feelings and grief out loud. This can make a huge impact on people’s lives. The world is hungry for more parents who are willing to speak openly about the loss of a child, including the raw and uncomfortable parts.  She is not alone in her pain. There are many people walking around with gaping holes in their chest. Their grief has not found its voice yet.

One of the biggest and most important legacies that our loved ones leave behind is the grief we feel in our hearts. Grief is praise. We must honor these loved ones by allowing our grief to be expressed out loud. Through this process, a person can find tremendous healing. The gaping hole can be filled again.

We will all grieve and it is imperative that we allow it to be expressed in its many forms. This expression is powerful and creates a ripple effect onto individuals at all stages of their grief.

I once had an arrow pierced through the center of my heart. I also had a gaping hole. Today I unapologetically express my grief and praise for my beautiful loved ones who have gone before me.

Ten Steps to Grieving the Loss of a Parent

Originally Posted on Alexandrakennedy.com

“The death of a parent is a shattering experience, wounding us and flooding us with powerful forces. The boundaries of our world are torn away, and suddenly life seems bigger than we might have imagined, terrifyingly bigger. A parent’s death can shatter us, leaving lifetime scars, or it can shatter our limits sense of our selves, opening up our world into new dimensions. For the latter to happen we must be willing to take a journey through grief, following what may often seem like a long, dark passage that will, in its own time, open out into vast new worlds.”
From Losing a Parent by Alexandra Kennedy

Ten Steps to Grieving the Loss of a Parent

The death of a parent is a life-shaking event for which few are prepared. This experience can wound us deeply, leaving lifetime scars. Or it can, if grieved fully, initiate profound, unprecedented change and open our world into new perspectives and choices. The following steps to grieving the loss of a parent (whether recently or in the past) will tap this transformative potential.

  1. Acknowledge the importance and power of this event. The death of a parent shakes the very foundation of our lives. It is natural, though often uncomfortable, to feel raw and vulnerable, alone, out of control. Rather than resisting the powerful forces activated in grief, learn strategies for moving through it, stage by stage, day by day.
  2. Take time each day to honor your grief. Set up a sanctuary in your home or in nature, a protected place where you can open fully to your grief for ten to twenty minutes every day. Using the sanctuary, gradually you will find a rhythm of entering the grief for a period each day, then letting it go and attending to daily tasks.
  3. Address any unfinished business with your parent. It is very common for unresolved feelings toward your parent to surface after his or her death. The grieving period is an important time to heal these old wounds and begin to say good-bye.
  4. Participate in creating new family patterns. The family system is often thrown into chaos and upheaval after a parent’s death. Old patterns don’t work with the same predictable results. The family may thrash around for months, seeking a new balance with one another. This is a brief window of opportunity, when the family is opened up to change before a new system is established. You can either be thrown into this new system or consciously participate in creating new patterns that are healthy for you.
  5. Explore the direction and quality of your life. The death of a parent often initiates a period of painful questioning: Where am I going in my life? What do I really value? What are my beliefs? Does my life really matter? This questioning is a critical part of the grieving process. Out of it will come new perspectives, directions and choices.
  6. Don’t pressure yourself to “get back to normal”. Many expect that grief will be over in a few weeks or months. Grief has its own rhythm, nature and timing that resist our attempts to control it. For some, though certainly not all, there is a marked shift around the first anniversary of your parent’s death. However, as the years pass, the grief may well up from time to time. Each time it surfaces, see it as an opportunity for more healing.
  7. Learn to parent yourself. Give yourself nurturance, love, protection and encouragement. Clarify the expectations you had of your parent that he or she never could fulfill. In seeing the relationship for what it was rather than what you wanted it to be, you can grieve what your parent didn’t give you and begin to appreciate what he or she did give you.
  8. Let your friends know what you want and need from them. Offer them some suggestions of ways that they can help and support you– perhaps bringing you a meal, doing some errands, giving you a back rub, taking a walk with you, checking in on you regularly. Assert that your need to withdraw. Let him or her know about anything that he or she is doing that is not supportive. Encourage your friends to educate themselves about grief so that they will know what to expect. Remind them that grief takes a long time to heal.
  9. Each year acknowledge the anniversary of your parent’s death. Take time to reflect and do something special to commemorate that date. Be gentle with yourself, as this is a vulnerable time in which many may feel depressed or emotional.
  10. Celebrate the changes and new perspectives. These will begin to manifest in your life as you move out of the dark middle phase of grief. When you feel ready, act on new ideas, inspirations and insights.