First of all, let me say that this “grief space” is going to look different for everyone. We all know there is no one-size-fits-all way to approach grieving (though it would be so nice if there was!), and so this process is something that will require you to consider ways that you process and incorporate change.
We’ve all seen examples of unresolved grief on television – just watch any episode of Hoarders or Kitchen Nightmares. The horrific scenarios in these shows are often the result of a traumatic event or death in the person’s past. Often, the loss was never dealt with and now their life is spiraling out of control. And it makes sense; if we don’t face reality, even a painful one, we won’t live or function in sync with reality.
We live in a society that can admire people for “going back to work” after a death. We explain it by saying, “Oh, they need to work to keep themselves busy”. While there is some room for that behavior as a way to cope, what it seems we are really saying is, “it’s ok to actively avoid grief.”
You know how kids cry when they are tired but they don’t know they’re doing it because they’re tired? Bereavement can be like this.
Like a little kid, we don’t want the fun to end, even when a nap is exactly what we need. To admit we are tired or in a reality of grief is hard and sometimes denial seems like it could work. It doesn’t (see crying child reference above).
Denial will never, ever work. In fact, it will actually compound and enhance your grief.
Additionally, avoiding grief can often invite in unneeded guilt. People can feel like they aren’t “doing” enough or “feeling” anything and conclude something is wrong with them. When we set time aside we are DOING something and opening ourselves up to possibly FEELING our sorrow. There’s no wrong way to do this other than, arguably, not doing it.
We are so addicted to the drug of being “busy” that we neglect the idea of pausing or making space for life to happen to us.
If you sense that you are needing some space to grieve or process something unresolved, you need to give this to yourself. Your responsibilities/job/life may not allow for time away to do this, so you’ll need to sense or plan when you need time to grieve. I know it sounds strange to “schedule” grief, but I think that it can be a very helpful way to think about and treat grief. In the beginning, grief may be uncontrollable or show up at precisely the most unexpected time. So, we get busy to avoid these outbursts and that is so understandable.
Many people experience grief organically and intuitively know when to take an afternoon off. If you know you’ll be avoidant of your grief, waiting isn’t a good option. Planning ahead for yourself can be very healing and helpful.
My hope is that you would feel empowered to claim space for your grief. And that by intentionally working through your new reality, you would be able to engage more fully and beautifully with the life you are living.
I always love when I read about the importance of being real with your grief. Thank you for giving us permission to do this our way, while at the same time speaking into some needs that can be universal. I write this days after kneeling and crying at the grave of my son. Mathew died at 4 months old of SIDS. He would have turned 25 October 14th.
What I have learned over this quarter of a century is nothing replaces the power of being still and letting the grief roll over you like a wave. That does not mean that certain activities or moments of involvement in this world also do not help in the grief journey. But when we STOP and slow down and connect to our universe in a still, quiet way it allows this powerful emotion to join us.
Having a sacred place or grief space to be still in, is even more powerful and healing for us along this journey. A cemetery where you visit a final resting place. The beach, desert or mountains that may have been a favorite place. Your church or place of worship and of course that special unique place that is just yours and theirs may be the space and place that you need to grieve. As noted there is no one size fits all, but there are some universal truths that can help us all in this grief journey. Thank you.
Beautiful article. Coping with grief is one of the hardest things in life. A proper funeral rite can help a lot with that process (https://martin-funeral.com/wp/faqs/), but there’s always more ahealing to be done after that. Looking into funeral aftercare can help people a lot!