Move through it, not past it
Some of you might know this, but I lost my cat-child of 14 years at the end of January. It was very hard for my wife and I. We are still not through it yet, but we are doing better. What has been on the forefront of my mind since it happened was how we, as people, deal with grief.
Grief is the natural reaction to loss – Mayo Clinic. This is generally related to death, but for some, it can fall into a wider spectrum. The process for most, when faced with grief, is grieving. This is the "through" that I mentioned above. In order to come to terms with loss, you must face it, not hide from it.
As I mentioned in last week's edition, I am a stoic – naturally and practiced. This makes people think that I do not have much emotion, which in the case of grief makes me seem heartless. This is very far from the truth, I just process things in my own way. There are many others like myself, so processing grief can look different for everyone, and that is ok!
For me, grieving is not focusing on what I have lost exactly, but what I gained from the time that I had. Since I am a natural stoic, I can see things at a micro and macro level simultaneously, and confront it with logic. This allows me to not be crippled by loss. Yes, I do have multiple moments of utter despair when facing grief, but I can generally rationalize it shortly after the feeling happens.
Others might have a very different reaction to grief. Some cannot stop crying, focusing is near impossible, even leaving home can be challenging. All of these feelings are perfectly natural. Rational thinking generally goes out the window, while droning irrational thoughts can flood in.
You might even fall into both camps – feeling grief at a hyper emotional level, followed up with logical bursts. Again, all natural. There are a lot of factors that come into play.
Some might feel prolonged grief. Prolonged grief is when you are feeling the full effect of grieving many months to years after the initial loss. What this could look like is the inability to think straight, leave your home, work, or thinking irrational thoughts – such as what-if's.
What-if’s fall into the category of – what if we didn’t lose them, what if medicine could fix it, what if we did/ didn't do that? Mary-Frances O'Connor calls these counterfactuals. Counterfactuals are not a healthy form of grieving. In order to grieve, you must go through it, not think of alternative realities. Without proper grieving it can lead to trauma.
If you have encountered grief and cannot get through it – tell a friend, family member, or doctor. You might just need some help, that's ok. Grief is hard, and grieving is necessary.
To be clear, life is wonderful, but also terrible. Experiencing loss is a terrible part of it, but in order to see the wonderful parts, we need to work through the shitty ones. Grieving is that process and it looks different for everyone.