Grief is an inescapable part of life; a part of loving people and a part of living long enough to be around when those people pass away. Losing loved ones is potentially the most painful experience you will ever have to go through, yet in a society that harbours an almost unhealthy obsession with being happy, the topic is rarely broached.
This leaves us completely ill prepared for the devastating tsunami of emotions that can come in the wake of bereavement.
As with anything, preparation is key and it can be as simple as just discussing the topic and reinforcing a few truths that you then rely on in times of need. Talking about and dealing with grief is never going to be easy, but it's a conversation that we need to be having.
It's worth noting that any form of grief should be taken very seriously and professional help and advice should always be sought where required.
Also, remember that grief affects people differently; so while there is a lot of common ground in how we might respond, we are all unique in our own experiences.
Below are a few truths that can be committed to memory for times of need;
Don't be ashamed of your emotions.
As humans we can be extremely judgemental. This is normally a reflection of the internal dialogue we are having with ourselves. If you ever catch yourself doing it, you may be aware of how critical and harsh we can be on ourselves.
This goes for emotions too. We tend to think that some emotions are okay to have and some are not. This is simply not the case. Practice acceptance and be kind to yourself. Some emotions may not sit well with your inner belief system, but they exist for a reason.
Don't waste your energy deciding what's right and wrong for you to feel and just accept what comes. They are only the messengers for what is going on around you and denying them will only lead to more pain and confusion.
Nothing lasts forever.
It's easy to feel like what you're going through at this moment in time is never going to change. It is going to change. It will be different in one hour. It will be different again one week from now. Life is changing constantly and that's a fact.
All you have and all you will ever have is right now, so start making it count. Be present in the pain you are feeling. Don't fuel insanity by thinking of things in the future that you cannot possibly know for sure, or dwelling on things in the past which is pointless and futile. Be proactive in the present.
Suffering is NOT a sign of weakness.
Let your pain be as visible and as visceral as it needs to be. Allow the gut-wrenching, body shattering torrent of emotions to show in whatever form they decide to take. There is no text book for how to act when your grieving.
Give yourself the time and space to express everything on the emotional spectrum. Cry, scream, sit in silence; allow your body to react physically to the situation in ways that feel natural not what you have been conditioned to believe is normal. NEVER think that your suffering, however long and unconventional it may seem, is a sign of weakness. Because it's not.
Try not to mask your feelings.
This refers to the burying of emotions and to suppressing emotions with any type of behaviour or substances. Emotions are there to be felt, however ugly or inconvenient, and while that bottle deep inside where you want to shove everything forever, or that liquid pain relief might seem like the only feasible way to deal with the pain; the truth is, it's not dealing with anything.
It's avoiding something that has to be confronted if you are ever to truly move on in your life. Problems will always occur when people try to ignore the pain or push it under the rug, with drugs and distraction mechanisms (you name it). Life will begin to be snatched away from you, as if some cruel and inevitable forfeit for not facing up to the pain of grief.
Time is a powerful healer.
It may not feel like it in the early stages of grief, but time has a knack of slowly soothing gaping holes of raw emotion. You may need to keep reminding yourself of this fact; but it is something that can be a great source of relief when experiencing overwhelming feelings of pain.
With every second that passes, with every day that goes by you are getting stronger, whether you feel like it or not. With loss, it's not about somehow forgetting or overcoming it completely, it's about the process of transformation, whereby you learn to live with it.
And, eventually the pain will subside and what is left is a strength deep within you that you did not possess before, that you did not think you could ever possess. Like a coal that becomes a diamond under immense heat and pressure.