Relationships are complicated. So why do we believe that grief should be simple? Just as every relationship is different, so is the grieving process. Just as there is no “right way” to love, there is no “right way” grieve.
When my mom passed away, I felt that “we were good”. Although we were very different people and she may not have agreed with all of my life choices, I knew we loved each other. Somehow, I expected that because “we were good” my grief would be easier.
I was wrong.
My grief was as complicated as our relationship had been. Once I let go of my expectations, I was open to the emotions I was actually feeling. As a result, my emotions (and grief) began to change and transform.
There are a lot of expectations around grieving. Some we put on ourselves, as I did, and some are put upon us by our culture. One of those expectations is that there are certain feelings we are supposed to have when we grieve. There are no “right” feelings during grief. Depending on the type of relationship you had with your loved one, you may experience feelings you were not expecting. Some people feel anger towards their loved one. Sometimes deep feelings of guilt are felt. Others experience a sense of freedom or relief as part of the grieving process. All emotions can, and often do, show up as part of the grieving process.
This leads to another expectation— that there is a set time line for grief.
There is no “right time” for how long you grieve. Anyone who has lost someone significant knows that grief doesn’t end. Instead, it changes with the passage of time. And it changes us, the loss becomes part of who we are. I hope that I am a more compassionate person as a result of experiencing a deep loss. I know that I am more appreciative of the other significant relationships in my life since losing my mom.
Through the process of grief, I experienced the wonder of feeling deep sadness and intense joy simultaneously. I already knew that feelings are complex and often paradoxical. In my case the intensity of my emotions was “dialed up” as part of my grieving process. I now have a new appreciation for the joy that can accompany pain and the sadness that feeds joy.
The biggest misconception about grieving is that it is the end of the relationship.
The relationship changes, by necessity, but our loved one continues to be part of our life. We think about them on holidays and major life milestones. We may discuss big life decisions with them. If we are lucky, we sometimes feel their presence. I know someone who has felt her husband’s arm hugging her in comfort on a night she has struggled with sleep. I know someone else who finds quarters that she feels are from her father. I even know someone who has felt happy and free since the passing of her mother.
“Grief never ends. . . But it changes. It is passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love.”
If you are interested in support during your grieving process, Claudine Miller, LPC and the counselors at Chrysalis Counseling are here to help.