Grief is the product of loss and separation. We experience loneliness in our deepest places and even intangibly as we look to the future and find it already lonely. And as if a death-loss wasn’t enough, grief has this awful way of revealing and ending relationships. There are often surprising friendships that just don’t make it through the loss. And then there are the lasting relationships, maybe surprising ones that are brave enough to encounter your sadness with you. Not everyone can do that, most people don’t know how or don’t have the patience for pain. So there are compounded losses after the death loss. Death opens us up to a season of unexpected losses.
In this suffering there is, hopefully, connectivity too. Grief often can bring people back together and offer a perspective that re-prioritizes relationships. There’s a beauty to this cycle of death clarifying life. When we allow that refreshing of our priorities to change our actions and thoughts, we allow something meaningful to come from the death of our loved one.
Something I hear over and over from people in grief is the importance of finding others that understand them. Finding “their tribe,” – whether that’s in a support group, a monthly breakfast crew, or a couple close friends you can text or call as the waves come – having these people make walking through grief possible. Some people think you need to find someone with the exact same grief-situation, and while some more complex losses like suicide or child loss can deeply grow from that shared experience, we all just need someone who has also endured that dreaded moment of death. Someone who has experienced that knows how to be with you as you begin to navigate life from that moment on.
This reminds me of the creatures in Harry Potter that can only be seen if you’ve witnessed a death. The “thestrals” are invisible to anyone who has not lost someone. The ability to see these creatures connects Harry to his friend Luna in a deeply personal way that matters very much to both of them.
These bonds are only forged through the joint experience of significant pain. We never know when pain will find us. We will be surprised by who pain brings into and takes away from our lives. But always, always, there is the human desire to connect, belong, and be understood. When we are willing to be open enough to connect with others, we can begin to see that yes, death took away from us, and now death is connecting us back and into to a different life.
If you are looking for your tribe, do a google search of support groups, check out our page of local groups, take a look at online forums, bottomline: be brave. Hurting people want to be with other hurting people. It may take some time but you’ll find something. If you’re looking to fend off the loneliness and a grief group just sounds worse, consider book clubs, painting classes, anything at the YMCA – just get out into the world and start noticing other people.
You may not be ready to connect over your grief – give yourself a gracious space to find yourself ready. Or, you may be ready but there’s hesitation. Chance it. The worst has already happened! – the next worse thing is that you got your first attempt at stepping back in out of the way.
When we allow our suffering to connect us to others, we allow for another layer of healing to begin.