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In this first group of posts, in the Blog Topic titled We are not our Grief, we are Grieving, I plan to share some stories, thoughts and actions I had and took through the first and most difficult months of my bereavement and then to offer some of the solutions and things that worked for me and others I have talked to along the way. 

Here are three quotes to begin with to give you something to think about:

“Life is like wearing a pair of shoes that are too tight and death is like taking them off.” (Ram Das)

“Life is like a river and grief is like a flood.”

“Grief is like waves breaking on a beach, overwhelming during a storm and changing to broader, lower swells that wash up less often and more gently on the shore when the storm is over.”

The ideas expressed in these quotes are good guides to finding understanding of our grief and what our lives will become within it over time.  I want to share parts of my journey and ways that I learned to accommodate my grief and to give you some things to think about, talk about and question. You don’t have to agree or believe, but I encourage you to think about it and to take what works and use it in your own way to move towards hope and healing in your own lives.

At the beginning of this journey by blog, I need to say that my preference in most things is always going to be facing things, experiencing things, learning from them and going forward. I want to share some of the reasons for this and some of the ways you might do that. I’m going to write  mostly about things that I feel helped me to find a positive and hopeful way to navigate my own grief journey.

waves of grief

We are not our grief, we are grieving!  Grief can be one of the most overwhelming emotional turmoils we ever experience. It can feel and be one of the most painful things we ever go through but, its good to remember, even during the pain, Grief is something that is happening to us but it isn’t us, we are separate from it so while we experienced it, we can also move through it and while we may be changed by it, we are still growing, learning and healing even when we don’t notice it happening.

The first story I want to tell you is about something I learned from my wife during her cancer journey. I’ve modified something she used to say to not be about her illness but to be about grief. She decided early on that she was not going to be her cancer. She was going to be herself living with cancer and she was going to go on living despite it and be herself as much as possible through it all. 

And she did. With grace and courage and an amazing strength I still look at with awe, she got up every day and took the time to do her hair, put on makeup, dress nicely and then face the day with as much grace and clarity as she could no matter what was happening inside her as the war between her cancer and her chemo treatments went on and on. 

So very early in my grief journey,  I told myself very clearly, if she could do that within the context of what she was living with and going through, I could do no less. And I tried every day to not feel sorry for myself and just get up and do the best I could to face what ever the day brought me, especially in the raw and highly emotional days of the first few months. Some days were more and much more difficult than others and some days more successful than others but I kept focused on her thought and on honoring her by being as strong as I could be. I kept telling myself, I am not my grief, I am just grieving and I need to learn to navigate that grief as best as I can.

So, grief may become all encompassing for a while, painful beyond relief for a while but with time we begin to separate from it and become ourselves again, separate from the grief, honoring our loved ones in memory, and while changed by it we are separate from it. We will grieve for as long as we grieve but for most of us, the very worst will pass with time and we will learn to find more peaceful places to live and grow in as time moves us forward in our lives.