Riding the tidal wave of grief
Updated: Mar 25, 2019
I was talking with a friend recently about the impervious nature of grief and just how difficult it is losing the people we love. Death is still such a taboo subject and one that is so often avoided because of the discomfort it causes. Sadly, it seems the most honest and open discussions about death and grief come only after we have experienced it ourselves and feel the need to share it with others.
I have many years’ experience working as a therapist in trauma and grief and have seen it at the coal face, from just about every angle and circumstance. I have also experienced the sudden loss of my own mother at a young age and lived through the ripple effect this has on an entire extended family for many years to come.
It is true that we grow from these devastating losses and they change us in a way that is immeasurable. The impact is so profound that once you’re through the other side, it can feel as though your DNA has been irrevocably changed. In an instant, your entire world is unrecognisable on every level.
These losses can propel you forward or leave you paralysed in a state of purgatory.
In fact, these two conclusions are at either end of a tangled and torturous spectrum, which we can oscillate between on any given day. Although the bones of it are the same, the personal grief experience is as unique as we all are, and we each go through it in our own way.
So, if this is a universal experience why don’t we talk about it more openly? Why is sharing our fears, our worries or even our curiosities considered to be so morbid? Is it that we’re afraid of confronting the stark reality of this process, head on? Or is it simply that it becomes too painful to imagine or we’re too superstitious to address it.
For those of us that have lost parents, family, lovers or friends, the void left in their place can feel raw and jagged for years. Like an insurmountable wave of anguish, pounding you unforgivably against the rocks, over and over again. And just when you think you can come up for air, you get dragged back under by the current and pummelled against the rocks again.
People often ask me, how do you "get over grief"? How do you get over the death of a loved one? Especially when you’re being dragged back under by that current. In my experience, you don’t ever “get over it”. You just learn to live with it, one fragile day at a time, until your jarring new reality becomes your new normal. When the cruel twist of fate becomes woven into the fabric of your life and you start to move forward, one brittle step at a time.
Death is always such a brutal reminder not to take each other for granted and although we understand this on a cognitive level, it so often takes the devastating consequences to fully realise. I am always the first one to say, resolve that with your parent, pick up the phone to your sibling, don’t let the discord come between you. Because one thing that has been unanimous across all of my clients and in my personal experience too, is the enduring sense of regret that we all feel about something we wish we had said or wish we hadn’t, after a person is gone.
So if there is anything to be learned from our shared experience of grief, it is not to let another day go by without saying the things that we need to, before it’s too late.
And on that morbid note, go and ring your family and friends and tell them that you love them!