We’ve all had that moment where it ends. It can be a bittersweet graduation from school, celebrating your accomplishment while simultaneously saying goodbye to your classmates. Perhaps you lost someone close to you or had to make the tough decision to compassionately help a sick pet transition to the other side. Or maybe you’ve experienced a parting of ways in a relationship and even though the person is still alive, the relationship has ended. Grief is that bundle of feelings that arise to show us how much our loved ones meant to us. The stronger the emotions are, the greater the significance they’ve had in our lives.
We’re often taught to hide from our grief. In many cultures, people often apologize for crying in public, even though they have endured extenuating circumstances. I’ve witnessed how so many people rush back to work, including television personalities who’ve lost their parents the same day as the broadcast, but go on working instead of being with their grief. Because so many people are escaping their grief, we can get a warped sense of this escape being normal. But no matter how prevalent the avoidance may be, delaying your grief is unhealthy. Countless studies show that unexpressed grief can lead to emotionally related diseases of the heart and digestive tract. It can disrupt our sleep, and left unexpressed, our emotional well-being can be compromised over time.
Releasing our grief is normal and healthy. In ancient Celtic times, the Irish would do something called keening, where they collectively made sounds of their grief in a group. This not only normalized the grieving process, but it also gave much needed relief from the emotional catharsis. While we may not have the opportunity to keen with others, private expression through crying and grieving together with family can be very restorative.
Everyone grieves in their own way and each person may experience certain emotions more than others. I see grief as a conglomerate of many emotions. Most people feel sadness when they grieve, which helps them realize how much they miss the people who are no longer in their lives (through death or a chosen separation). Many people also feel mad, which may be the anger that they never expressed to the person who is gone. They may feel anger at the universe, God, or the circumstances in general, because something or someone was taken away beyond their control. Old disappointments surface about what we expected to receive from that time of your life, but never had a chance to experience. Grieving is the time to reconcile with the past by feeling all the deeply held emotions and letting them go.
Although we often think about grief as being predominately sadness, it can encompass any emotion, even guilt, fear, and shame. Grieving melts away the rigidity of our lives, helps us to release control over the factors that are not in our hands to change, and cleans out our hearts to make room to receive the new. While we can experience resistance to the grieving process, often out of fear that it will emotionally overwhelm us. But this process comes in compassionate waves, allowing us to try at one moment, then feel a sense or relief, or even laughter in another moment. When grief it moving, it doesn’t stay stuck inside of us. So eventually, it will move out of us completely and the fear that it will go one forever is just a false prediction. The release is not taking anything more away from us, rather it just helping you to acknowledge what you have already lost. Once the grieving process is in full swing, the worse part of loss has already happened. Grieving is just trying to help your heart and mind to catch up with the new, evolving reality of your life.
Grief does not fade with time unless we somehow actively release it. That’s why grieving is healthy. It clears the path for our vitality to come back. No matter how much it may feel like a part of you is dying inside, breathe deeply, cry fully, ask for support, and know that this fertile process will soon sprout a fresh chapter in your life.
For more help on grieving exercises and techniques, please refer to my book Healing Our Bloodlines: The 8 Realizations of Generational Liberation.