Trigger warning for readers facing a grieving process or life transition causing you grief.
Today's blog post will be completely different and far more vulnerable. So far in my weekly posts, I have offered advice and tips for better living, more effective family functioning, and educational tools. This week, I'm letting you into part of my life and letting you know I don't always have it together either.
The topic of grief has been on my mind a lot recently. I have been a Companion Volunteer at a wonderful organization called Judi's House in Denver, Colorado since March 2010. It is here that I have listened to countless stories about death losses of loved ones and special people on a weekly basis. In the last few months, I also began a support group for widows and widowers who have lost a spouse or partner and have witnessed their pain, hurt, and loneliness. Lastly, I have worked on some of my own grieving processes throughout my life and tend to revisit things on occasion or encounter new losses and transitions that beg for my attention.
Most recently, I attended a former professor's book release and signing party. Her book, "The Alchemy of Grief: Embracing Mourning through Grace"*, takes a different approach to how most of us think of grief. Our culture, family members, friends, and colleagues tell us we are supposed to go through certain stages of grief and are quickly expected to "get over it" and "move on". However, as a person who has grieved and still grieves, I know this is unrealistic. Dr. Fidel-Rice's book clearly expresses this sentiment by letting the readers know there is no time frame, there is no structure, there aren't clear steps, and there is no "one way" to grieve. Grief doesn't even have to be over a death loss. Job changes, life transitions, geographical moves and more all contribute to one's grieving.
I have been grieving a great deal over the last few months about the loss of my life as I know it. If you were to ask me to describe myself in a few words, I would tell you I am a woman, wife, friend, daughter, sister, therapist, business owner, and lover of life. In July, I will add another descriptor: mother. As I approach a major life change of becoming a first-time parent with my husband, I am realizing that my life's direction is going to shift dramatically when our baby arrives. Throughout this process, I have felt lucky, anxious, blessed, scared, excited, prepared, frantic, joyful, and mildly depressed - sometimes all in the same day. Yes, fluctuating hormones certainly play a part in these feelings, but knowing that I am changing so drastically has been deeply saddening. My body has gone through both expected and unexpected changes, the relationship with my husband has changed, my priorities have shifted, and sometimes I don't even feel like the me I thought I knew. I frequently ask myself, "How can I keep my identity when everything around me feels so unstable?"
I believe this soul-searching question lives at the core of many peoples' grief processes, not just the one I'm struggling with currently. Who are we when a loved one dies? How do we change when we move across the country and leave what we know? What do we sacrifice when we become someone's mom or dad? I have learned that grief is change, that change can cause grief, and this can alter our perception of self and identity.
Therefore, I have honored my grief and will continue to do so. I also honor other's processes with patience and empathy. I know it's ok to not "be ok". That I do not have to "fix it" for myself or anyone else, but just be present. With identity, change, and grief so wrapped up in each other, it takes time to understand and work through. I want to leave you all with a quote that speaks to my heart from Dr. Fidel-Rice's book:
"Unless the soul in grief finds a bit of silence, there is little hope of healing psyche's speech until it becomes the clamor and clang of nightmare, accident, sickness, or madness. Silence, especially today, in our culture, is quite intimidating, quite threatening. To sit in silence, to be with the quiet of our soul is what the heart needs - to feel, to grieve, to cry and eventually to heal."
My hope is that when you grieve, you can find a quieting of your soul that brings healing. I am actively pursuing what Dr. Fidel-Rice calls "conscious grief" and wish you all the same grace and self-love.
* - "The Alchemy of Grief: Embracing Mourning through Grace", written by Annamarie Fidel-Rice, Ph.D.