Grief has many faces
Last week I shared with you that I felt I was experiencing another realm of grief after my oldest son left for college. It made me think more about grief and that it’s not only related to death. In fact, grief has many faces.
While most of my posts about grief center around the loss of my husband, Larry, there are other experiences in my life that have led to me grieving. I know I’m not alone. I imagine if you’ve lived life you too have experienced grief. Grief is related to loss, but not only the loss of a loved one.
I have poured quite a bit of my heart into my weekly posts and I’m always grateful for the amount of support I receive from you, my readers.
I’m truly humbled when I get an email sharing the journey you’re on and how you could relate to what I’ve been through. Many of you have had profound losses of your own that create our common ground.
Like I said, I’m so grateful to read your stories… Yet, I’m saddened when I see the caveat that sometimes comes first: “It’s not the same as losing your husband…”
I’m saddened because I don’t want you- or anyone, for that matter- to discount your own difficulties and your own journey of healing.
But I get it. I felt the same way last week. It’s not the same as losing Larry, but it still hurts.
I had to stop myself and listen to the same advice I would give anyone else who was hurting while dealing with a life change. DO NOT discount your feelings!
No, it’s not the same, but just because you’re not facing the loss of a loved one, doesn’t mean you’re not grieving. It doesn’t mean you don’t have your own pain that needs to heal.
It’s a common misconception that grief is only related to the death of a loved one.
After years of grieving and educating myself on what grief truly is, I have come to understand that grief has many faces.
I’ve also learned over the years that grief is a continuous process of letting go.
One doesn’t “get over” the pain… You heal from the pain.
Unfortunately, the pain associated with letting go is part of the healing process. While I accept that some pain is more profound than others, as far as I’m concerned if you’re hurting, you’re grieving. Rather than compare whose grief is greater I say we be respectful of each other’s pain and offer support, love and encouragement.
In the book, Good Grief, by Granger E. Westward, he discusses the various losses we face in our lives. Regardless of the source of the sorrow, many of the emotions (shock, anger, depression, guilt, and acceptance- to name a few) are the same and require a process that allows for healing.
What would you say if I told you you’ve dealt with grief throughout your life?
Did you recognize it for what it was? Probably not, as many people don’t realize they’re grieving.
Most of us have dealt with the end of a relationship at one time or another in our lives. The end of some relationships is extremely difficult.
A separation or a divorce is devastating. Grief is constantly by your side as you go through the process of separating your lives from one another. The intensity of emotions is very high, and the pain is very real. Before one can move forward after a life changing event such as this, one needs to take time to grieve the loss of the relationship and find a positive path to healing.
Another example is receiving the diagnosis of a child with special needs, an occasion of sorrow and pain for the parents. Having a child with special needs is an experience that can be challenging and rewarding all at the same time… But it’s not easy.
When we first learned that our son, Charlie, was diagnosed with Mosaic Down’s syndrome, Larry and I both grieved. We grieved for many reasons, but certainly not because we didn’t love him or want him. Quite the contrary, our hearts we’re grieving for the difficulties he would most likely face during his lifetime.
Then, a few years later, some of that grief resurfaced when Charlie was diagnosed with Autism. Only this time I had to grieve alone, since Larry had already passed away.
Speaking from experience, grieving alone is hard, and I really miss Larry’s bear hugs that he used to give to comfort me.
Receiving the diagnosis of a chronic illness is another life challenge that brings grief into your life. The diagnosis can be frightening, what with all the unknowns attached to it. Along with these fears comes grief, both for the unfamiliar future and for the lives that may be altered.
As for me, when I learned how severe Larry’s illness was, I grieved for him, our family and our future. This also brought on a lot of anxiety, which I will discuss in another post.
Another form of grief that’s becoming all too common in many families is the one that accompanies depression and all forms of mental illness, including addictions. The individual isn’t the only one affected, because basically anyone who loves the person ends up suffering too.
For years I grieved the loss of a loved one who faced addiction and mental illness. Not because this loved one has died, but because this person is no longer the person I once knew.
Unfortunately, over the years many people have lost their job. That loss is usually followed by other losses (home, relationships, etc.). These individuals may very well find themselves engulfed in grief- and they, too, must find a path towards healing.
Many of these losses cause profound changes in our lives and can certainly rock the very core of our existence.
And though not all grief is that deep, we still need to pay attention and recognize that “grief is grief” and steps need to be taken to heal, to create a new path.
One grief that is not always recognized is the one parents face as we watch our children grow. (Which, by the way, is not to be confused with the “grief” we get from day-to-day parenting- that’s more exasperation than anything else!)
The grief I’m referring to is the sadness (even depression), the anger (have you ever looked at your adolescent and wondered who the heck they were?), and eventually the acceptance that it’s necessary for our children to become independent and eventually leave our homes.
This is the grief I’ve been experiencing. I have had bouts of sadness, anger (sometimes even directed at my son) and even moments of shock. Where the heck did time go?!
Whatever life challenges you face, along with them come a whole range of emotions. Recognizing them for what they are- parts of grief- is the first step. The next step is getting on the path to healing. And, if you’ll allow me, I’ll be there to lend a helping hand.
So even though it’s been almost nine years since Larry died, each day I still face having to let go of the life we had together. I must now let go of my children as they do what nature intended for them, to move on and be independent.
I pray every day that I’m given the strength, wisdom and courage to continue the path I’ve chosen to help me heal. I pray you are given the same.