On Grief and Dying

I’m not sure you get “through” or “over “grief. I do believe you have to deal with it, face it front on, to find a level place after a loss. To say you have “grieved” someone is to say you have walked that path of loss, sadness, and loneliness without them. You have perhaps processed their loss in your daily life, the lack of their physical presence, talking to them, seeing them, knowing they are no longer around for you to call or visit.

Grief is a physical pain. It is nausea, headaches, sleeplessness, lack of hunger, fatigue, lack of motivation. It is a desire for isolation. It is a world you live in and don’t understand for a while. And no one wants to hear about it from you. They all want to cheer you up! It’s ok to be in this world, it’s part of the process, of the digesting of loss, the synthesizing of it into your new life now.

Moments of sadness, loss, grief continue to pop up in your world years later. They catch you off guard, unexpected tears, sadness, overwhelming feelings of why they are gone. A song, a poem, a beautiful fall day on the mountain all can bring up such amazingly strong feelings of loss and sadness.

It is an act of courage to embrace these moments and not shove them under. They are painful, the tears come, and the feeling of loss is sometimes so hard to sit with. It is in this moment that we do honor to those who are gone from our physical world. To take these incredibly difficult moments and remember is the only way to walk through grief. I’ve often thought that grief is a constant companion. I have now come to believe that grief is not the companion, it is the acceptance and embracing of that loss that is the companion. Embracing the tears that the memories bring as love and remembrance. Embracing that feeling that has now become so distant over the years, yet this moment of tears and sadness brings it back to life.

We get back to enjoying our life, laughing doesn’t feel like a guilt trip, nor does being sad all the time. Going out with friends and enjoying things stops feeling like a betrayal. We are told by hospice nurses that we still have a life to live. We move forward with our lives and find pleasures we had lost in caregiving. We find new interests and old ones come back because now we have time. And sometimes we stop in our tracks and remember. Those are now treasures, even if the tears come with the remembrance.

To have “grieved” someone may mean that you are in that level place of acceptance. I’ve seen those that continue to grieve, and it is painful to watch. Or having not allowed time for grief and how it surfaces in such painful ways.

The point is to not let it become who you are, but a journey, a passage of your current life. Not accepting grief as a part of who you are, compromises all of who you can become. It is a rich passage that offers us compassion, an understanding of the impermanence of our physical life here.

Those who let it become ingrained in their life lose their own life in it. The daily conversations of loss and sadness become a way to stick to the loss, not accept and move through the loss. The Buddhists say that pain is inevitable, but suffering is not. Suffering is caused by attachment.  We can become attached to our grief and suffer, or we can feel the pain, go through it, maybe multiple times, but not be attached to it.

Walking through grief helps us to understand our loss, to remember the love of that person, and to find our way again in the world. It does change us. How that happens is up to you.

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