Over the years I have noticed that grief is ever present in most of us and is alive and well below the surface waiting for a chink in the armor through which it can escape.
This is not to say that people don’t grieve, we do, just not as fully as we feel the sadness. Many of us are under some sort of pressure to hurry up and be over our grief; to wrap it all up in a nice tidy package and be done; to finish our crying once and for all and get back to normal. Our medical system puts pressure on us too, and often offers medication to numb the ache, a temporary and false solution.
It is almost as if grief is an enemy of sorts, an ally of death; a foe that reminds us that we are human, finite, and vulnerable to life’s circumstances. Grief is messy yet here in North America we do our best to clean it up quickly as it reminds us that death will come knocking again.
Grief, along with death, is in a real way taboo. Grief is seen as a burden, a weight, a downer. I was chatting with a woman who had lost her daughter to a sudden and unexpected death just three months ago. She was grief ridden. She used the phrase “Debbie Downer” to describe herself – how painful is that? And yet this is what our culture has taught us, no wonder so many of us are carrying incomplete grief.
What to do?
Grief, like a trickster, often sneaks up on us arriving when we least expect it. Often it pops up when we are relaxed and have let our guard down. What many of us do as we have been trained to do and suck it up apologizing for our emotional weakness. We stunt our grief. We cut it off and do our best to put it in a safe container in our body where we can forget about it believing that by compartmentalizing it we done our job. We pretend we are back to normal. We take a drink or a pill or a mouth full of food and bravely smile our grief back down where it belongs.
None of these solutions work.
The only way I have discovered that does work is to give grief permission to be fully expressed in the moment as it arises and to share our grief with others who are willing and able to ‘get’ it.
What happens if grief is not a burden?
What happens if another way to spell grief is love?
What happens if grief is a type of glue that can hold families and communities together and inspire us to live?