I have been sitting with my thoughts around grief for quite some time after the fairly recent passing of my mother, having found that it uncovered a whole myriad of layers and emotions that were both subtly and yet distinctly different to the feelings I experienced around my father’s death 7 years ago. I have found it to be a nuanced web, with interconnecting threads that stretch all the way back through my ancestral lines and emotions which affects each one of us differently – and which can change and fluctuate on a daily or even an hourly basis.
What is grief?
The first thing to say around the subject of grief is that there really is no rule book or prescriptive manual when it comes to dealing with it. It has however brought me comfort to look at what grief actually is, and to my mind it is this: a powerful myriad of emotions and physical reactions to the loss of someone or something we value. It can be the loss of a person due to death, a reaction to the breaking up of a relationship or losing your job, or even mourning the loss of hopes and dreams for our future – all of which seem to weave through several stages and can require us to reach out for a little help to move through what can feel like such overwhelming emotions in a safe and supported way.
The stages of grief
The various stages of grief can be identified as initially experiencing shock, denial or disbelief, which is then followed by pain, anger and bargaining, sadness and reflection and perhaps even guilt and loneliness. It is only after these emotions are felt that there emerges a chink of light; a sense of moving through the darkness in the form of release, resolution and finally, acceptance and hope. As I touched upon earlier, there is no rule book in the form of right or wrong with any of this and the important thing is to be gentle with yourself and reach out for help when you need it. As a healing practitioner, the latter is the first piece of advice I give to anyone who is enmeshed within grief (whether that’s a client or a friend) and it is advice that I have had to feel into and follow myself since my mother passed away.
I loved my mother dearly, but it certainly wasn’t always the easiest of relationships and after her death, as we were making all the necessary arrangements, I was on an emotional rollercoaster. There were days when I cried and days when I was also very angry. I found myself mourning the mother I would have liked her to have been: a warm, loving, caring mother, and then I began to be able to allow myself to admit to myself that she had sometimes been emotionally very cruel. I realised that I would never have dared allow myself to think this way while she was still alive, but I knew it to be true and as I sat with it, in truth, it began to resonate through me.
Naturally, this felt very uncomfortable to begin with because I felt guilty for thinking such thoughts, but when I gave myself permission to accept it, I began to feel calmer; I began to let go of the old pains and hurts that I had struggled to release before. Quite remarkably, I began to feel lighter and I began to be lighter. Moving through this process myself, I was able to find an even deeper degree of compassion and empathy for those who turn to me for support when they are experiencing grief and it enables me to hold space for them to heal and move through it in a nurturing and sensitive way.
Allow yourself to feel
My final thoughts on grief when it comes to the death of a person are these: for those of us who lose a loving, kind person, we grieve their loss – but for those of us who grieve a person with whom we have had a difficult relationship, it can be more challenging. We mourn the person we would have liked them to have been or maybe we mourn the fact that we no longer have the opportunity to tell them how we feel – the good, the bad and the ugly. Give yourself permission to feel the whole gamut of emotions that you feel; allow yourself to feel the things you perhaps think you shouldn’t be feeling. It’s okay, feel your feelings and let them pass, let them go, all is well.