Grieving is work. Grieving is school. Grieving is breathing. Grieving is process. Grieving is life after loss. Grieving is healing. Grieving is hard. Let me explain. Broken hearted people are rarely given the leisure to stop all other responsibilities and just focus on the work, education, processing & healing of the natural occurrence of grief. Culture and life responsibilities continue to demand our time, focus, and attention. All the while our brokenness interferes with the ability to face a work day, children’s needs, household chores, bill paying, a game of tennis or golf, etc.
So what’s normal about grief? It is the shared human experience of mourning our losses. We can only get through grief by grieving. To stuff or pretend creates a number of negative physiological and emotional reactions. So just how does one learn, process, work through, and heal after loss? Maybe looking at it through an educational metaphor might help. School is typically a place where we are not expected to know all things all at once. An elementary teacher understands how the curriculum cycles; teaching and learning a concept and then returning to it each year with a little more depth until mastery is achieved. Likewise, working through our grief and learning about grief comes with its cycles. (see image)
Can you recall the feelings of fear when you didn’t quite know an answer to a question? The fear of the unknown is a common experience of the bereaved. We can’t tell when a massive feeling, like a surprise test, is going to come. We feel uncertain that we will be able to handle the raw, deep pain. This is why informing ourselves of what others have experienced is helpful. Reading their stories or insights can give us the useful information we will need to apply to our own grief education. *
Any time an academic goal is set, hard work is usually required to accomplish it. The goal for the grieving is to be real, honest, and face each grief experience. As we do, we find the “hard work” of journaling, participating in a support group, sharing memories, or following the guidelines of a grief coach is effective to help us towards feeling better. Earl Grollman explains it this way, “Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.”
So while those of us who mourn are often expected to carry on in our everyday lives, maybe we can look at ourselves as learners in the school of grief, taking night classes (or early morning classes) to learn how to live with our losses.
* I recommend my book, Comfort for the Day as an excellent grief “text book.”