When I was a little girl, I sometimes tried to imagine what it would feel like to lose somebody I loved.
I could imagine only the sketchiest approximation, though. I knew I would be very sad, but had no weight or measure of that sadness and couldn’t imagine its nuances. All I knew is that it was likely to be a grief so enormous, I might not survive it.
A lot of years have passed since then, and I’ve lost a brother, several close friends, and my parents. And in a way, I’ve been granted one of the secrets of the universe: the knowledge that as terrifying as grief is, we almost always survive it.
We fear grief as much as we feel it, which only makes our burden heavier. But grief cannot kill us (without our cooperation) so we don’t have to add to our pain with fear.
What we might fear when we feel grief:
- That we will never emerge from it.
- That the pain will always be as intense as fresh grief.
- That the feelings are irrevocably changing us.
- That we will never feel safe again.
- That we will be haunted by regrets.
- That the new void in our life will never be filled.
The reality of grief is:
- With time we can emerge from the other side of it.
- The pain usually eases from a hot poker to the heart to a dull ache and finally to just occasional wistful melancholy.
- Our life may be irrevocably changed, but we remain who we are.
- The world is no more or less safe than it ever was and we will forget to be afraid.
- We might be haunted by regrets. It happens. All we can do is use them for positive growth.
- While no void can be perfectly filled, other things will come along to fill the space nicely when we are open to them.
The holidays are difficult if you’re facing a fresh loss, and in light of our national grief over the tragedy in Newtown. But we can’t hide from grief and don’t have to.
Sometimes we have to just force ourselves to succumb to grief rather than try to flee it, trusting that our fears will not come to pass, and that we will feel joy again.