4 myths around grief:
- “No one’s died. I’m not grieving”
Grief can be a) the thing you can’t stop thinking about (as in Michel Rostain’s The Son “Dad can’t hear anything that distracts him from his distress”) or b) a dull ache that is difficult to locate the source of.
In other words, there are griefs we know about, the obvious ones, and the griefs we don’t know about, the not-so-obvious. And some things can be particularly hard to grieve. For example, there can be a lot of grief around sexuality and sexual expression, which has very little space to be heard in daily life. Grief in itself is pretty taboo. Grief around sexuality, even more so.
There is grief and mourning present in each day of our lives; disappointments, frustrations and heartbreak that need acknowledgement and integration.
- “Grief is for old people”
If you are young, don’t think you don’t have anything to grieve. Grief is one of the earliest experiences we have and we are usually more permitted as young children to express our grief through our crying and tantrums.
As we grow older however, the opportunities to grieve become more limited and the belief that to be strong we must suppress our responses to loss, and the mantra ‘Just get over it’ takes hold.
- “I don’t want to dwell on the negative. It’s too depressing. I’ll get stuck there.”
Grief is just the way things are. In order to blossom again, I need to experience the stillness of loss. Experiencing grief, is different from talking about it.
“We must face the reality of a brokenness of heart that is both personal and of the world. Surprisingly, that is when we discover that ‘the pain is the mantra’; the very suffering of the world can be what repeatedly calls us back to the imperative of its healing. If we can persist and sit with the reality, not running from it, a music may eventually be heard.” Alistair McIntosh
If I don’t do the work of despair, I numb out or suppress feelings. That’s when I get stuck. I remain disempowered or angry. I always come back from grief work more energised.
- “I’d rather keep it to myself, thanks. I’ll get over it.”
Grief is strangely unique to each individual and does need a lot of time to integrate, most of this integration is done alone.
However, there is such power in being fully witnessed in your grief. Nothing changes, the lost lover doesn’t come back, the chronic health condition doesn’t improve, the traumatic childhood doesn’t get erased but healing is possible by having the space to express hurt and pain, (without people telling you ‘You’ll be alright’ which somehow jumps over the lived experience).
Nothing changes on the outside, but my own capacity to contain the hurt grows.
Grief simply needs space and needs to have space held for it. The deeper layers of despair work are rarely possible to face alone.