“Healing doesn’t mean that the pain goes away. It means that the pain becomes a sacred part of you that you carry inside forever.”
Healing doesn’t mean that the pain goes away. It means that the pain becomes a sacred part of you that you carry inside forever. Often grieving people come to counseling hoping to find “closure.” However, I’ve always felt that closure was an illusion.
Besides, how can there be an end point to love and loss? Do we even want there to be? The price of loving so deeply is feeling so deeply—but it’s also a gift, the gift of being alive. If we no longer feel, maybe we should be grieving our own death.
The grief psychologist William Worden takes into account this perspective by replacing tasks of mounrning (acceptance, denial) with integrating loss into your life and creating an ongoing connection with the person who died while also finding a way to continue living.
Right now, the pain feels unbearable, “alternately numb and in excruciating pain.” Yours may feel like that or it may feel different. You might also experience a sense of surreality: How can people go on with their days as if nothing has happened? How can they backpack national parks and share DIY projects on Instagram when the world seems to have stopped? And comparing your loss with others’ is natural, too: Is it worse if the death is sudden or expected? If the person is 62 or 80? If you saw the person regularly or hadn’t seen him in a year? But grieving is not a contest, because there are no winners when it comes to losing someone you love.
Still, while there’s no hierarchy of grief, daily reminders can be retraumatizing,
So what can you do in the face of your loss amid these extra challenges? You can be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. You can embrace the rage—because it’s valid. You can disinvite the guilt when it attempts to pay you a visit by reminding yourself that there’s nothing you could have done differently. And you can bear in mind the concept of impermanence. Sometimes in their pain, people believe that the agony will last forever. But feelings are more like weather systems—they blow in and they blow out. Just because you feel gutted this hour or this day doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way this afternoon or next week. Everything you feel—anxiety, anguish, joy—blows in and out again.
So when you do fall into self-blame, rumination over how things might have gone differently, and protesting the death itself—all of which are ways to not experience the more tender feelings of sadness and loss—be gentle with yourself.
There is no way around your grief, but there is a way to move through your pain. Be patient with yourself. Try to remember that eventually you will come to view the world as neither all good nor all bad. Hold a space for the fact that you hurt so deeply because you were loved so deeply. And let that braid of pain and love be a reminder that you are human, and you’re exactly where you need to be.