Grief exposed: honor the process, continue to thrive

Nothing knocks me straight on my ass faster than grief.

For clarification sake, I recognize that grief and loss can be experienced through a variety of circumstances. For this post, I am specifically referring to the experience of grief in the wake of the loss of a loved one due to death.

I don’t know an eloquent way of diving into this one, so I’m just going to start spewing words out and hope they come together in some sort of meaningful way.

Grief has been an all to present visitor in my world for a while now. Each experience brings with it the opportunity to gain new insights. And let’s be real, the experience of grief is a connecting place. It’s common ground. No matter what your story is, we will ALL experience grief at some time or another.

The grief experience is so very deeply personal. I speak to you today simply from my own grief experience.

If I am counting correctly, I believe my experience holds 5 of this type of grief experiences in about 3 years or so. A vast majority of which have been very close, key relationships in my life. Not all of which have been human.

With this much exposure to it in a relatively short period of time, I have begun to develop an intimate relationship with grief. (I find that intimacy is often what emotions need).

Some observations I have made regarding my grief experience:

  1. It knocks me on my ass. Fast. My natural reaction to a grief state is a strong desire to curl up in a ball, under the covers, and let the world spin on without my active participation for a while.

  2. I get ANGRY. Like. Really angry. Generally directed at something completely random and likely unrelated. Now. This one is significant for some reasons. First, because anger is not really much a part of my daily experience. I don’t really get road rage. I function under the belief system that everyone is doing the best they can, in the situation they’re in, with the information they have currently. That belief provides great freedom in the sense of, ‘You do you, boo’, and I generally don’t fret about others actions TOO much. Thus, anger is not a daily occurrence. UNLESS, my emotional threshold is already quite depleted, in which case, if I could become the character Anger from Inside Out and shoot fire out of my head, oh man, that would bring great relief! Also, this one makes sense. Anger is a firey energy. And that fire often feels better, or at the very least, more empowering than the indescribable sadness that is contained in the grief experience.

  3. EVERYTHING takes more energy. Everything. Showering. Daily chores (ie animal care, etc.). Talking to people. Everything is more of an energy drain, especially during the initial state of grieving.

    The thing is, life keeps happening. Even when your world is tremendously shook by loss. Responsibilities still exist. Some environments/relationships may be more tolerant of your process than others. Here are some things I have learned about how to navigate the grief experience. Ways to honor the experience, while also continuing to move forward on one’s own life path. Take what resonates, leave the rest. Regardless, remember, you are not alone.

1. Mornings, allow time. I, for one, am not a natural morning person. I CAN do mornings, but it’s not the time of day I thrive. When I am deeply sad, mornings are even harder. So these days, when I know I am in grief, I build in more time for each morning task. Because goodness knows, for some reason, sadness makes the body move slower.

2. Create space to feel. If there is one message I would like to reiterate over and over and over again, it’s this; feel your fucking feelings. ESPECIALLY when it comes to things like grief. I find that it can be easy to fall to one side or the other when it comes to grief. Either to wallow in it, or refuse to look at it and busy the self with anything and everything else. The magic space is in both. Yes, busy the self. Take the mind off of it from time to time. But also, feel your fucking feelings. And be gracious with any that arise or emerge. Often the grief experience comes with a mixed bag of emotional variety, and IT’S ALL OK. But it’s also vital to create a safe space to let those emotions have their moment to be heard. They will never go away until they are acknowledged and recognized. So balance, as usual, is key. Create space to feel your feelings, and also, have some activities that you HAVE to do, to get you out of bed when you don’t feel like it.

3. Slow down. For my world this occurs in a few ways. I am quite active by nature and by profession. However, when I am actively grieving, my activities must slow down. Today I walked and lunged horses instead of riding. I am naturally drawn to pretty strong yoga classes. When I’m grieving I take yin or restorative classes. I find that grief weighs heavy in the body for me. Therefore, it’s important to move, to keep moving that energy so it doesn’t become stagnant. But also, everything takes more effort and energy. So it is also necessary to move more gently through the world for a while.

4. Let some stuff slip by. Sometimes life demands to set those feelings aside for a bit and get shit done. Sometimes, it’s a good practice to ask yourself, “What do I actually HAVE to get done today?”, and do just that. Nothing more. Netflix binge or read a good book for the rest of it.

5. It helps to keep in mind that often when I am grieving, so are others around me. Remember that low emotional threshold I mentioned earlier? It also creates a bit of extra sensitivity in my internal experience. Much like when running on not enough sleep, it helps to actively remind myself to not believe everything I think. My knee jerk emotional reaction to interactions is likely a bit misguided during this time.

These are just a few thoughts, strung together by my own experience. Comment below if you have ideas/practices around the experience of grief. Let’s meet in the space of genuine connection and help build each other up!