Grief and death are so destructive. They annihilate everything in their paths, leaving a pile of debris where a whole person once was. I almost called this article “How I Got My Groove Back,” but I couldn’t. My groove, as it was before grief and loss, will not be back. I am, however, finding a new groove, a new self, and building a new life. The nature of my devastation doesn’t really matter. If you haven’t in the past or are not now, you will be in a place of deep sorrow at some point. We all will. Though I know all too well that destruction is inevitable, I’ve also learned that it doesn’t have to be permanent. It’s possible to crawl, claw, and climb your way to wholeness. Here are some of my stepping stones to healing:
I let things be as bad as they were.
As a perfectionist and a person responsible for lots of other people, it’s my usual pattern to “fake it til I make it” and simply refuse to fail. Grief and loss don’t work that way. Pretending things aren’t as bad as they are, or that the pain isn’t as severe as it feels, only delays healing. It makes sense that we need to understand the scope of a wound in order to take the appropriate steps to treat it. Same goes with wounds of the soul. Once I ceased putting energy into denying that things were as awful, unfair, and horrific as they actually were, I could begin to use what resources I had toward coping. This is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves and anyone we know who is grieving: letting things be as bad as they really are.
I listened to my body and mind signals.
One of the best nuggets of wisdom from my therapist was the reminder that instead of fighting the desire to be alone, sleep, cry, or avoid some social situations, I should consider that maybe what I felt like doing was what I actually needed to do. He pointed out that an injured animal will retreat, rest, and protect itself instinctively so that it can heal. We have a similar instinct when devastated by the loss. Grief is exhausting and sickening. It’s a full-time job of the heart. Sometimes those things we think we should push through, like the need for extra sleep, solitude, or the desire to avoid errands are exactly what we need to embrace in order to care for our wounded souls. (Disclaimer: I do not mean that the symptoms of a clinical condition are normal and should go untreated. I speak here only of the grieving process.)
I became OK with finding myself… again.
For a while, a sense of frustration and failure hovered over me because I felt that I should be past the need for self-discovery. I should know who I am. Yet, it makes sense that the different me emerging from the ashes and destruction of my grief would take some getting to know. I went ahead and let myself embrace the process of self-discovery, and even began to enjoy getting to know myself again. Building a new life involves figuring out what ideas are no longer needed or important to me and what joys are now essential. The reality is, that grief has changed me. I needed to allow myself the time, quiet, and curiosity it takes to discover who I am now.
For me, grief has been a tsunami that swept into my soul and took out my life as I knew it. My old life is no longer possible, but I’m rebuilding anyway. There is joy, hope, and even adventure and excitement as I begin again. My former life was beautiful. My new life is, too. Last week, with the blessing of my therapist, I moved from a weekly therapy appointment to an as-needed basis. It was like waking up to a warm morning sun, the knowledge that I’m experiencing healing, and hearing my therapist acknowledge my progress. I’m different, but I’m back, and it feels amazing!