There are many times in life we may feel grief. It's an emotion that can come through various phases and stages of life, as part of change and transition.
Yet grief through death of those we love may be the hardest grief we ever have to face. Even to endure and to survive.
I read once that surviving through child loss takes a dedication to choosing life. And when I read those words, I felt such a deep understanding and truth of this. No grief is comparable. No grief is the same. Grief and all expressions of grief through death, are all valid, and each of our own personal experiences and feelings deserve and need to be acknowledged. Within ourselves, and with others.
I wish I could write a support manual through grief. But I've come to know even more so over time, that there is no 'how to' list, or just one way to keep loving and living through grief. There is no book that gives us a set time frame. Or even a framework that you can work to. I wish I had that. I wish I knew a step by step process to follow when someone we love, so deeply as part of us, dies. But I can't. Because I know what it's like to live through grief and to carry grief and love side by side. And I know there is no one way for us all to move forward in our hearts and in our lives.
If I'm truly honest, when I experienced tragic loss in my own life, I threw away all the text books and theories that I'd ever studied or learnt. None of them made sense to me. I wanted to tell clients and people how deeply sorry I was that I hadn't understood grief in the way I now knew it to be. There is no one way to heal your heart, especially through unexpected and devastating loss.
What I do know is that all your grief is valid and to acknoweldge the truth of your lived experience, is necessary. We don't do this very well, especially in our western world. We tend to want to place grief in a tidy box, or put it in the corner, or stifle it in some way. That's absolutely how people can feel through loss - stifled and encouraged to be quiet, to get over things, to get back to the way life was, to not express ourselves in the ways we truly need. There can be so much we hold onto in our bodies if we aren't encouraged to talk about grief, to honour grief, to express ourselves however we need, in safe and trusted ways.
I often look to other cultures and how they grieve. How an expression of anguish and sorrow isn't squashed to the side, or discouraged from being seen or heard. There are cultures where wailing is encouraged. Where weeping is welcomed as the most acceptable way to grieve. So publically, so open. So viscerally. And honestly, it's so healthy. Instead in our society, we hold onto feelings and emotions so tightly within, and it's no surpirse to me, in the holistic way I see us all as human beings, how grief can stay within us. Our bodies hold onto so much, and perhaps that unexpressed grief can even be translated and felt as physical pain or illness. Or some form of dis-ease.
Surviving grief, loving and living through devastating loss, is a dedication to choosing life. It's a heart centered chocie we make every single day to keep staying open, to keep loving anyway. And to know that through it all, grief is love. And love doesn't just last a life time, it carries on, within us, around us, in everything we do.
I don't think I realised the true meaning and power of love until grief changed my life. But do I know that my choice to stay loving is what has kept me moving forward. And there is comfort in this.
The most supportive words I can say are those only from my heart. That however you feel is okay. You are not broken. Your life may well feel forever changed. You may never feel the same way again. And perhaps this is part of the passage towards choosing life. There's no set timeframe, there's no end stage or goal to reach. You may find youself feeling okay one day, and then suddenly, through something just so small and mundane, a word or a moment may take you straight back, as if it were yesterday. I have those moments, still, and I've come to accept that I always will. As all of these feelings and emotions are normal and an acceptance of this, loving ourselves through it all, is a huge part of being able to hold both grief and love side by side, and still, choose to move forward.
Our capacity to love is the same as our capacity to grieve. They are both visceral feelings and to me it's become only more natural that they would co-exist. And the strength and courage of our human spirit never ceases to amaze me, that our hearts can carry so much. And each time I may find myself, still, in times or spaces of overwhelming grief, I remind myself of my capacity for love. And I find deep comfort and solace in this. To have loved with such intensity that sorrow can still feel at times, all consuming. We grieve because we loved. And as we choose life moving foward, there is a lot of beauty in knowing and leaning into this.
Both grief and love have given me a profound and completely changed perspective of almost everything in my life and the world around me. I didn't ask for this deepest of life lessons, but I have survived it and I do know the growth and wisdom that's come through it all, has only deepened my compassion. I not only see and feel everything differently. I understand many things in a way others may not, and I never imagined I would.
I often think of a river with grief. It ebbs and flows. And as part of a river, we have no known destination, but perhaps as the current lessens our hold on us, we flow along with a sense of greater ease, and peace, and the need to become submerged dissipates, and ever so slowly, we may float on the surface with all the ripples and glints of light reflected off the water, becoming the essence of us.
I've often had people ask how they will ever feel or find a way to belong again in a world so changed. Especially through tragic and unexpected loss, and through child loss. Those moments we might appear fine to the outside world, but inside we may be crumbling. Those days and weeks or years that pass, and yet sometimes, the memories can feel larger. Those triggers that exist in the every day, around us. Significant days we feel loss intensely. The loss of all that we might have known and all that we hoped for, ahead. Our hearts change through loss. Our bodies hold onto so much. But however you're feeling, however you're doing, you're doing okay.
I think I've come to know that there is a deep need for honesty within ourselves through grief. An honesty that allows us to honour all of our feelings and emotions as valid. An honesty that is very real and we know the support we need, or might be lacking, and how to find this or seek this within and outside ourselves. I think there's a need for the deepest knowing of self compassion and self love. A need to really know within ourselves that it's okay and safe to put ourselves first. It's wise to be discerning. It's also safe to feel a little lost and alone at times. Sometimes we can feel more lonely with others who may not understand and to find peace in solitude can be such a precious gift. I think there's a deep need to find a sense of trust within ourselves. I think there's a deep need for forgiveness as we are so hard on ourselves through loss.
I feel there is a need deeper than the depths our oceans, for honouring every single part of grief as love. Perhaps this comes with acceptance over time. I think so. And I think it's also different for us all. Perhaps it comes to just surrendering to not needing to know why, or to find some kind of reason or deeper meaning from it all. I think this is true. But it may not be so, for you. Perhaps it comes just by acknowledging within ourselves that however we are, however we find ourselves, it's okay and we're okay. It's normal to feel the way we do. There will be days and even weeks or months that we will start to feel our new sense of normal. But even as times passes, there will be days we don't. Knowing what it is that supports us, who we can turn to, who we can talk with, how we can support ourselves, or having a safe space to go - all of this and more - all so necessary and essential for our own sense of healing, in whatever way that means for us all.
A question I am often asked is, do I think we all heal and recover through loss. And of course, we all have different experiences of this. Grief is so personal and sacred. I have found comfort in support groups, and in grief spaces, and at other times, I've felt only comfort within myself. As no one's experience is ever the same. And no grief is comparable. I do know I have healed but I'm not sure I'll ever fully recover. There is a big difference to me in knowing and accepting this. I have survived and I do keep choosing to love and to keep being open to life moving forwad. To me, that's a huge part of healing. But I will never recover in that I go back to the person I was before.
I have my own personal and sacred feelings of grief, and as I acknowledge these for myself, I acknowledge that yours will be different. I think this is a huge part of compassionately understanding grief. I think it's a part of deepening community and support around us. An understanding and a willingness to know and see each person and the truth of their own lived experience.
I do think that whatever our own meaning of healing, we do come to a time where we want to move forward. In whatever ways that looks like and feels for us. I think deep within us all, is a desireto keep living and to keep loving. It's a part of feeling alive. I think when we lose someone or those we love, this desire over time may even become deeper. We may desire to choose things and to live things in a different way because this life we find ourselves in, is so very different and changed. For us to move forward, we find ourselves no longer able to exist in the same way we knew, and we ourselves seek and choose our own change. It's part of it all, over time, I feel. It's certainly been for me, as years pass. I know I seek and desire change as I keep evolving and moving forward through this life. I choose this as my dedication to life and the possibilities and hope that continues on the journey and path ahead.
I would encourage you always to listen to yourself, and to question how you feel all the time. Through all the ebbs and flows, through the days you see and find joy, and through the days that you feel hollow and alone. Allow yourself to be who you are through it all, in any given moment of time. And ask yourself what it means to feel as you do. Ask yourself what it means to accept life as it might be now. And ask yourself what it means and how it feels to choose and to have a dedication to love and to life. And ask yourself how you can capture all the moments of light. And to lean into anything and everything that may continually flow from this space.
I would lovingly encourage you, whenever and however you can, to be open to possibilities in this life. Because a desire to keep being open, is a desire to feel alive, to feel some sense of yourself, and all of our desires are part of capturing the light in all the ways we can. They're all a part of moving foward with grace.
Your grief is yours alone. It's a very personal and sacred journey to honour. And I acknowledge all the truth of your own lived experiences. I know when we feel seen, heard, listened to, and understood - we can feel so much more open to our own ways of healing and to making the choice to keep loving in this life, now and moving foward. I hope for us all to support each other more, through all our expressions and experiences of grief and loss. I believe in this with deepest compassion.
PS. If you are looking for compassionate and holistic support, then I would love to have a conversation with you. You can find details to contact me through this page - https://www.katiejanewellness.com/working-together.html
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Katie Jane is a Holistic Therapist, Life Coach, Health Coach, Nutritionist, Naturopath, Meditation teacher, writer and author. Katie has been working in the wellness industry for over 15 years, in private practice and online, and brings all of these qualifications and skills, along with her own lived experiences through challenges, changes and transitions. Her approach to life and wellbeing is truly holistic and unique for each individual. She supports and coaches clients to make powerful changes, to feel calm through uncertainty and change, to embrace self care as a way of being, and to thrive through life transitions.