We are not our grief, we are grieving:
Two quotes to begin with:
“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.”
Definition(s) of Grief and Mourning: What are we actually talking about here?
Grief: is a deep sorrow, especially when caused by someones death. It is a feeling within yourself in response to someone dying.
I think the important thing to remember here is that grief is a feeling or actually a very large and complex group of very intense feelings that, especially early in the journey, come over you and kind of take you over. It is often totally visceral and emotional and not rational or thoughtful at all.
Mourning: is the expression of deep sorrow caused by someones death. An external expression of your inner feelings (of grief) when someone dies. Mourning is about your expression of how your grief makes you feel.
As with all parts of grief, they are your expressions and reflect who you are and how you loved.
We grieve because we love:
I believe it is important to know and remember that it is our love and the ending of our lives with our loved ones that cause us to grieve.
We miss them and all the interactions and time we spent together. We miss the things we did and said and were to each other, the things we will never get to do or the things we will never do again.
We feel the sadness and loneliness of being without them filling their space in our daily lives. Numbing silence fills our homes. For all these things and many others, we experience that deep sorrow and pain, feeling and believing that we will not be able to have any more time or experiences or love with our spouse or partner.
And everything and every moment reminds us of this. And it hurts! And it becomes the most wished for thing we have, if I could only have another hug or another day or…
Here’s a verse and chorus from a song we wrote that captured those feelings pretty strongly I think.
Now there is empty,
now there is sadness,
now there is living all alone,
Now there is wishing,
with every breath I take,
for your somehow coming home.
…I am standing,
Though I’m wracked with pain,
Though my life has been shattered,
from us, into me, all alone…
from I Remain © Howard and Andi Fischer 12/2020
The main thing I want us to focus on tonight is based on something I learned from Andi during her cancer journey. 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.
What I learned was to apply that idea to the experience of grieving as:
We are not our grief, We are grieving…
Being our grief or becoming our grief seems to me to contain the idea that grief has been incorporated into who we are and has become a permanent part of us and we are somehow stuck in a new life of grief without end.
Not being our grief, being separate from our grief, to me means that grief doesn’t own us or define us. It is not actually a part of who we are and so, in time, we can pass through it because it is something that is happening to us and is not part of our selves.
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, even during the worst of the pain, it’s good to remember that grief is something that is happening to us but it isn’t us. We can still be growing and learning through it all as we move towards healing and wellness.
Our grief may become all encompassing for a while, painful beyond relief for a whilebut with time we also begin to become ourselves again, separate from the grief, able to honor our loved ones in our memory and in our actions, While we are changed by it, we are not our grief!
Again, as we grieve, as we experience grief, we are indeed changed by the experience. It is not that we become the grief because we change, but that the experience of going through the intensity of our grieving changes us just as any experience changes us. We definitely do change as we grieve but those changes are how we respond to what is happening in our life. Just because we are changing, doesn’t mean we become our grief. We are grieving, we are changing, but we are not our grief!
A last idea to consider:
As we grieve, I think it is also important to remember that there is no one way to grieve or mourn nor is there one way to go through grief and mourning nor is there a time table, nor a “should do” list, nor a calendar… However long it takes, that’s how long it takes.
But, while we are not our grief, we still do grieve and mourn and something important I want to affirm here is:
It’s always OK to grieve!
Because there is no single way to do it, nor a single right way to do it or experience it, you can do it in your own way and do it in your own time. It’s not up to others to tell you how or when to grieve nor for anyone to tell you when your grieving should be ended.
When it’s time to do something on your grief journey, you will know it but it should be when it feels right for you and not when somebody or some book or something you saw on the internet says you should do something or be something.
It’s just different for each of us and we need to follow our own timetable and our own hearts… Again, how ever long it takes, that’s how long it takes.
Negative grief and mourning behaviors:
Just as a reminder here, there can also be grief or mourning behaviors or the results of anger or frustration within our grief and mourning that are loud or violent or hurtful to ourselves or others. Those types of behaviors can become intrusive on others and we should be aware of and seek professional help for when our grief or mourning becomes too intense to navigate by ourselves or within a group setting.
Questions to think about:
Does it help to think of being separate from your grief and not let it be who you are?
Can you see a way to separate from your grief but still remain yourself within the grieving?
Can you perhaps think of any examples of you and your grief being different and separate?
What would you be willing to share about how your grief makes (made) you feel and act, especially in the early days? What does (did) it feel like for you?
What things do you miss most and do you see it as possible to learn to live without them in your daily lives?
How might you begin to learn to fill some of those empty spaces?
If it is possible, and you have begun to learn to accommodate to living without those things, how have you been able to do that?
Is it OK for you to grieve?
Do you think it’s ok to grieve/mourn in public? Is there really a choice?
What can you, or do you do when grief comes over you in a public place?