Grief to Gold
This idea is one of the most important things I learned in the first year of my bereavement, something that became a goal and a light that I could head towards within the fog of my grief. Working on this was a very strong part of launching and sustaining my healing journey.
One of the saddest and most difficult things that happened over and over in the first year of my bereavement was that all of my memories of our life together were turned to sadness as they became overlain by my grief. Looking toward the past, no matter what I thought about, it always made me sad or triggered my grief and caused me to cry and sent a grief wave crashing over me full of “missing you” in almost every instance.
A part of that grief was triggered by seeing all the things in our home that reminded me of Andi and of our life together. Each time I saw them, all the memories they invoked took on a deep sadness and so it became very hard to even look at the material things we loved and treasured as a couple.
But at the time, I also thought that a goal of getting through my grief and of finding healing ought to be my being able to remember our life as it was and not have it all filter through my grief. I felt that I had to somehow find a way to put the sadness in the background instead of the foreground. I had to learn to let the joy of our life together come back to the surface and be able to look at Andi’s picture and look at all the things and memories that were part of our life once again and feel the joy we felt when we had lived them together.
I knew that it was going to be incredibly hard to do. The pain of loss was so visceral and overwhelming that I knew it would take a lot of time and I also really didn’t know what things I would have to learn to make it happen. But I knew it was a real goal to pursue, because it seemed to me that otherwise, what would be the purpose of keeping anything from the past around me or thinking of thinking of the past at all. If I couldn’t change it in some way, all of those material things and all my memories would just be a continuing sadness that never healed and never let me heal.
Looking back at it now, it seems that I had two choices at the time. I could change my physical space and remove all the triggers it contained and try to stop thinking about our life, or I could change the way I saw them and the way they effected me and learn to remove the filter of my grief from them and see them as they truly were. Either one is ok if that’s a choice you make, and I know people who have chosen both ways of reacting, especially to the physical part of their lives, but I chose to change the way I saw them so I could allow them to remain part of my life going forward.
It seemed to me that it would honor our love more to be able to remember the joy of our lives together and of the things we chose to keep in our home and world if I could figure out how to allow the memories to once again bring the good feelings of the events of our life to the surface and let that slowly replace the sadness that all those things brought me in my grief.
So I thought, what if I could learn to turn my “Grief into Gold!”
With that thought, I began to work on finding ways that I could change that feeling, of finding ways to not have things and places and memories trigger my grief. If I could, I would be able to remember our life together as it had been. I would be able to think of Andi and remember the good times, the special moments and even the bad times, not with grief but as a memory of who and what we were and the life we lived together.
If I could figure it out, I could again think about her and our life with a smile, with joy and with gratefulness for the love we shared and all the things we had been and done, and not let our past and all it contained continue to be drowned in grief and sadness.
And it gradually worked! Over time, I came through to a place where I have separated my past and my memories from my grief. I can see our things, and I can think about Andi and our life and see it as I remember it and not through the filter of my grieving. The memories, possessions and pictures are no longer automatic triggers to sadness, my grief no longer shrouds the past. The memories have regained their richness and brightness and have turned into gold. I can now remember it as the beautiful life it was.
- Are you aware of the different parts I’ve described in your own grief journey?
- If so, what part(s) of the continuum do you feel you are in?
- Can you see how healing and wellness are different places?
- What does healing mean to you?
- What does wellness mean to you?
- Where does the idea of functionality fit into this discussion?
- How would you like to see this complex of journeys unfold for you?
- Do you think that there is value in going through and experiencing all the parts of the continuum?
- Do you think that actively working on finding healing and/or wellness would help to accelerate or smooth the process?
- How might it do that?
- Can you see a way or a path to turn your grief into gold?
- How would you work on that?
- What would it look like for you?