I previously spoke a little bit about some losses I and my family endured several years ago. In the midst of pretty deep grief, I learned that I could change the face of grief. At least for myself, I could. (And maybe help others in the future.)
After a few months of being angry, miserable, and feeling like my emotions were on a roller coaster (which was not an enjoyable ride); it occurred to me that I needed to help myself get better. All the support in the world could not change things for me, only I could design a positive change in my own life. I’ve spent my life trying to help others and now it was time to help myself.
So I began to look at all the blessings I had because I had these people in my life. I began to tell stories about their lives and share things I enjoyed about them and had learned from them when they were here. I started to focus on their lives, not their deaths. Over time, I noticed that although I would always miss them, I didn’t feel so overwhelmingly sad or angry. I began to appreciate what I had instead of just ruminating over what I lost. And most importantly, for me at least, I began helping others deal with deaths or other tragedies they had happen to them. At first, I wasn’t even sure I could do it, but it turned out okay. I was able to draw on my experience and help people understand things they were experiencing without being caught up in my own losses. I couldn’t “make it all better”, but I could help them feel a little better.
One of the most important things I learned was that by helping others, when I was healed enough to do so, I was helping myself and them. Everyone’s journey is individual and a little different from everyone else. We don’t all take exactly the same path and the only way to get it wrong is to try to ignore it and not keep moving forward. Even that’s not really wrong, but it sure doesn’t help! I often give people permission to grief in the way that is best for them, not what other people think they should do. My journey will not be the same as anyone else’s journey and I believe we need to honor the journeys others will make. There is no “one size fits all” way to grieve. Be respectful of what people are going through and allow them whatever they space or support they need. What works for one person may not work for someone else and that’s okay! All that matters is that people feel better and function better and understand that they are okay.