“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.” ~Robert Gary Lee
It felt like I was being crushed by the weight of the world.
“Impossible,” I thought.
It’s impossible that people actually suffer this kind of pain and survive to tell the tale.
When I thought about it, my stomach contracted as if I’d taken a blow to the gut. I’d gasp for breath and try to find some air through the tears and in between sobs.
So this is what grief felt like.
Now I understood why denial is the first stage of grief. How could you endure this kind of agony if you had to face the force of its full frontal attack?
I felt sick and exhausted. I lay down and, although I expected never to find enough peace to sleep again, I quickly drifted off into a place where there was no more pain.
When you think of grief, you think about a great loss.
A death of a loved one, news of your terminal illness, and the loss of your home from the violent winds of a tornado are all acceptable events to grieve about.
We can understand how any of the above can bring a person to their knees. We expect people to grieve over these losses.
What we refuse to understand is the grief we feel over the smaller losses.
The falling out you had with a good friend, the passing of your family hamster, and losing a heirloom you’ve had for two decades are all examples of small losses that are too silly to deserve our grief.
Which is why, as I fell asleep that night, I felt nothing but weakness and shame. Because I was grieving the loss of my childhood relationship with my father, and that wasn’t serious enough for all this fuss.
My father didn’t die. He was just absent.
What right did I have to be sad when there were so many children out there who’ve actually lost their fathers? At least mine was still alive. I should be grateful for that.
But I wasn’t. At least not yet.
I couldn’t be grateful because I was so sad I thought I’d never be grateful for anything again.
I knew that made me a bad person, which made me feel guilty, weak, and ashamed.
So I locked up the grief and tried to throw away the key. I felt like I was dealing with stolen goods. The grief wasn’t mine to have; it was for other less fortunate people.
Why is grief only ok for catastrophes?
It’s only in the event of a tragedy you have the right to grieve, and that needs to change.
Go Ahead. Feel Bad About It.
When you’ve lost something, no matter how small it is, give yourself permission to feel sad. In doing that, you give yourself permission to honor said lost thing and, most importantly, to heal.
There is no healing without grief and no grief without pain.
To stop yourself from grieving because it’s against the rules or because you think it shouldn’t hurt so much leaves you emotionally stunted and numb.
Not only will you never know free, spontaneous joy, you’ll be floored when you suffer a major loss that won’t be contained by your makeshift prison.
Don’t tell yourself you’re fine when you feel grief inside your body. You’re not fine.
Don’t think that you don’t deserve to grieve. Your loss is real, and it must be honored.
Forget about what you were told about sucking it up. You can do that after you’ve mourned.
So feel it. Feel it through and through. Grieve until you feel the pain wash away from your body, revealing a stronger, wiser, and more capable you.
There’s nothing too trivial.
Moving Through Grief
The first thing you need to do is name your loss and give yourself permission to grieve it.
Mourning just to mourn isn’t helpful. Remember that the purpose of grief is to heal you from the pain of loss, and it can’t do that if it doesn’t know what to heal.
Even when you feel grief inside you, don’t begin the grieving process until you’ve identified your loss. You’ve trained yourself well to deny your pain, so you’ll feel very confused about the origin of the pain. Meditations is great for this.
For example, I wasn’t grieving over the loss of my father. I was grieving the loss of the experience of having a normal childhood and every detail that goes with it.
I’ll never know what it’s like to feel protected by a father, I’ll never have memories of us playing in the park, and I won’t know what it’s like to pit my father against my mother since there was only one parent for me.
I even felt mournful over not being able to call anyone dad without it feeling strange.
After you know what you’ve lost, you can get down to the business feeling as bad as you need to feel. Journal, listen to music, or sit in your favorite spot at the park. Give yourself enough time alone to do what feels right.
Depending on your situation, you’ll eventually be able to identify a point when you can replace your loss, or accept it.
I’ve learned to accept the loss of my relationship with my father. I let myself feel the immense pain of the loss combined with years of denial until agony turned into ache.
I noticed how heavy I was all those years because now I felt lighter. I could breathe easier although I can’t remember feeling restricted.
I felt stronger and more resilient. I physically felt the growth of my spiritual self. There was a sense of power inside of me that came from getting through pain instead of ignoring it.
The grieving process manifested inner strength, the likes of which I’d never felt before. It was a calm, peaceful and confident type of power.
It was a power that says, “Whatever it is, large or small, I’ll get through it.”
So I say to you, “Whatever it is, large or small, don’t wait another second: get through it.”
Photo by lovstromp
About Liz Seda
Liz Seda runs a blog about how to use your unique individual potential to identify and create a life you love. Connect with her on Twitter.