Our lives are busy with careers, kids, spouses, family and friends in so many combinations. Loss happens in the middle of all this and we find we literally have no time to acknowledge, validate and honour the pain of loss.
You can’t schedule a couple of hours next Wednesday for grief time. It just doesn’t work like that. Behind the scenes of your very busy life, your body and emotions are doing the hard work of processing your loss, whether you are aware of it or not. This work, behind the scenes, may be why you are exhausted and irritable and feel totally disconnected and distracted.
In 2006, my parents died within eight months of each other. They lived in another province and I was here in Nova Scotia, a single mother with two small kids, one of whom had just injured his knee and was undergoing a series of operations. Back and forth to Ontario I went, while the children were cared for by friends for a few days at a time. It was an incredibly stressful. I did not have any time to “indulge” my feelings of enormous loss when my father died. I just had to have my head down, keep going, doing the best for my mother and my children. When my mum died unexpectedly, eight months after dad, there was so much to do, so much to take care of and tend to and people to be strong for.
I certainly didn’t know as much about first-hand grief and loss as I do now. I was just going on what I was told, like most all of us do, hearing familiar platitudes and talk about the stages of grief: things that are really well intentioned, but not helpful at all.
I did not know that in order to at least begin to heal a little, I had to acknowledge to myself how much I hurt, and to become aware and understand the validity of my sadness.
I needed to understand how not acknowledging it was making me sick.
“When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.” — Anais Nin. As the author Alan Wolfelt states, “If we are ignoring, denying or postponing our grief, it will often turn to our bodies as a means of expression. It will literally make us sick. Aches and pains, viral illnesses, autoimmune diseases, even cardiovascular and other systemic troubles often arise when we are not giving our grief the attention and expression it needs and deserves.”
“You can’t pour from an empty cup” is so true when it comes to grief. We want to protect our loved ones and be there for them in times of shared loss and stress, but you can’t give and give until you are beyond done.
I use the words “acknowledge” and “validate” often in my writings, because they are so very important. We know how wonderful it feels when other people understand you, acknowledge and validate your pain when you are experiencing loss. And I include many kinds of loss: death of a loved one, divorce, illness, financial troubles, moving, and all of the other grief-inducing losses.
We, ourselves, have to acknowledge, validate and have compassion and understanding for our own feelings, emotions and sadness and be aware of the physical toll grief takes on us.
How can you do this when you are so very busy? In the best way that you can. Taking the time that you can, when you can. It all starts with acknowledging to yourself that you have a right to feel what you feel. An absolute right to honour and grieve your loss.
Hilary Scott is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® and a Certified Loss and Grief Support®. Contact her online at Healing the Loss on Facebook or at www.healingtheloss.com.