I once read that moving through grief was like surfing – that grief comes in waves and in order to make it out, you have to ride each wave. How incredibly true. You can’t run from it, hide from it, numb out or distract yourself from it – no matter what, the waves will come and you can either ride them, or get crushed by them and feel like you’re drowning.
Whether grief comes from the death of a loved one, a separation or a life circumstance, it functions much the same, although certainly at different magnitudes depending on the type of loss. A seemingly unbearable pain and sadness at first, followed by waves of sadness that can be steady or somewhat random. Like a bucket that slowly fills up and then overflows at the top, the grief spills out whether it’s convenient or not.
We all understand the presence of grief surrounding death, but many do not understand that grief is often present and needs to be honored when you have lost someone who is still living. The death of a relationship can feel like a true death, and denying a period of mourning can deny the necessary healing in order to move on in a healthy manner.
When a marriage or long-term partnership ends there may be grief surrounding the life or future you thought you would have, or grief for the changes for your family if you have children. There is grief in letting go of the person that was such a big part of your life and your future, especially when you still love them. And it can be so difficult to let go when they are still “here”.
The almost constant reminders in the beginning – sometimes provoked by a song on the radio, a food, an inside joke. Thinking of something funny or seeing something beautiful that you instantly have the impulse to share with them, but as you reach for your phone you remember that’s not who they are to you anymore. Or waking up in the morning and for a moment being in ignorant bliss, then suddenly your new reality comes rushing in and hits you like a ton of bricks. They are still very much alive, but at the same time gone.
The good news? It won’t be this painful forever. If you ride the waves and allow the feelings to come, over time they will be smaller, less frequent, and the bucket will get lighter as time passes. And even pain can beautiful.
Like everything in life, you can focus on the beauty or the pain. During grief, in the beginning, it can feel the same. Beautiful moments that you shared become a painful reminder that you won’t have more beautiful moments with them. But hold tight, keep the beauty in mind, the gratitude for your time together, honoring what you had, knowing that the love is eternal even if the relationship isn’t. Eventually the joy in remembering can outweigh the pain of the loss.
It’s like a scale with sadness on one side and happiness on the other. In the beginning, the scale might be at a full tilt toward sadness, and it may stay that way for a long time. But eventually, the memories will start to bring smiles with the tears, and then the smiles will sometimes replace the tears. After some time, you may be able to look back on your time together with only a smile. You’ll realize one day you haven’t cried. And someday you’ll find yourself thinking about them with only gratitude and love – no pain. But even as it’s painful, be open to the beauty, the love – it’s always present.
Look for beauty in the deep connections that can be built with the others that are still here for you – in the rising up of others to stand with you, to hold your hand. Allow the love in, allow the pain to break your heart open, not shut it down and shut others out. How hard you grieve is not a testament to how much you loved. Let it flow. Let your heart remain open. Let the feelings come, let the tears come and then let it pass. Don’t steep, don’t wallow, don’t cling – let it all move through you.
Don’t cling to stories in your head that you’ll never recover, that this isn’t how it should be, that you’ll never find that love again. Don’t reach out to them in a moment of pain to fill the void that they left or try to fill it with food, drugs, social media, TV or another partner. Feel it. Let it be ok that you’re sad, let it be ok that it hurts. Just be with the feelings, the emotions – let them come and let them pass, loving yourself all the while. Let yourself be really sad and cry all day if you need to in the beginning. Allow yourself the space to grieve. Then, sleep, rest, take a bath, eat delicious, nourishing food, be with loved ones, take a road trip, write about it. Listen to sad songs or watch a sad movie and let the emotions come, but then get out in nature, do something you love, watch a funny movie, dance. Grief is meant to be a place you move through, not a place you move to. Don’t stay.
Life is still beautiful, there’s a reason it all unfolded as it did, and you will be OK. Take the love that you shared and the love for yourself and the trust that it’s all happening for you and let it carry you through the grief and into your new reality. You will never be the same, and that is a good thing. Let the grief clear the space for more love.
Don’t give up – be open to what life is creating space for and what needs to be healed. As Patti Davis said, “It takes strength to make your way through grief, to grab hold of life and let it pull you forward.”
Know that this is just a chapter in your book and there is more to your story. As always, you have the power to write your own happy ending. When you’re ready, pick up the pen.