Processing the Grief Process
By Cindy Adkins
If anyone has ever lost a loved one, there is no describing the experience. Nothing prepares us for grief—nor can anything move us through the process faster than our hearts are willing to go. It is a journey that has no destination other than being able to survive it. Perhaps what makes it most difficult is the need for explanations and because there are none, it is impossible to wrap our brains around the loss. So, we wait. Waking up each morning, the process continues, but we do not feel any different. The reality is still there.
But, we are the living and we are forced to go on. The past rushes through our minds like water—a faucet that cannot be turned off, no matter how hard we try. So, we hang onto those memories and know that they are so precious that we do not want them to fade—ever. After all, those are what we have. They belong to us. We own them.
I went through a loss many years ago. At the time, a huge pain hit the area right in the center of my chest. At that moment, I knew why I had always heard the term “heartbreak,” but I never took it literally until then. If you have experienced it, then you know what I am talking about.
We all handle loss differently. I remember when a friend said to me, “Time will make things better.” I thought it was the coldest statement I had ever heard. Time will make things better? No, time will only mean that I am further removed from the person I miss. How could it be possible that a year or two or ten could make things easier? For each person going through this process, that is something that can only be determined individually. I will admit that time has helped in a strange way. The emotions are not as raw. The wound started to heal over. If it did not, how would I have been able to put one foot in front of the other and make it through just the process of living, itself?
I believe that we only go through the pain of loss because we love so deeply. The greater the love is—the deeper the pain. Love is an emotion that is impossible to quantify. It is also difficult to express to others who wonder why we do not “get over it” and move on. But, they do not walk in our shoes. So, in reality, they are not our concern. We are our concern. More specifically, you are your concern and only you can take care of yourself during this process because no one else will do it for you. Aren’t there days that you wish someone could?
So, where do you start? You start by embracing the reality that while you are in this process you will do what it takes to be good to yourself and give yourself what you need. More than ever, remember to be your own best friend. If you need time just to enjoy the outdoors, do that. If you want to visit friends and it makes you feel better, get together with them. In short, be good to yourself. You may be a person who has always taken care of others. But now, you need to be a bit selfish and put your own needs first.
Because I am a person who has difficulty focusing on myself, I did something different at the time that I lost someone who left this earthly plane unexpectedly in a heartbeat. I made goals and I promised the person I lost that I would accomplish them. In my mind, we were a team. I said that we would get a college degree and I went to school. I promised that we would go to graduate school and finish—and we did. It was my gift to that person and it is the only thing that kept me going.
Whatever it is that will keep you going, give yourself “permission” to embrace it. Along the way, remember to be good to yourself. There is only one of you and you are here for a reason. Don’t ever forget that. Even your loss could be part of your path because you will impact others in ways that you have no idea about at the present time. You could be a beacon that shines brightly to help erase their pain in the darkest of hours.
When you do get past these moments of what I refer to as “pain at critical mass,” use what you are learning to reach out to those who will need you when they go through something similar. But, you do not even need to wait to do that in the future. You may not know it, but when you share your personal story, be it online or in person, you are helping them. People can hear what you express and think, “That’s what I’m feeling.” So, you are an intrinsic part of their healing process, as well.
I do not have answers. I am merely a traveler on this journey. But, I do know that by sharing our stories, not only does it make us feel better, but we never know if just one thing we say resonates with another person and helps them in ways we could never dream of. I wish you peace on the journey.