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Understanding Grief


Image of a rose

Consider the bloom of a rose: its fragrance beckoning, its petals unfolding in a delicate dance. When we receive a rose, our instinct may be to inhale deeply, eyes closed, basking in the warmth of its scent. You may find yourself admiring its beauty, holding it cautiously, careful not to prick yourself on its thorns. Holding it, you smile in gratitude for the gift. Though you are aware of the thorns, they fade into the background - overshadowed by the beauty of the blossom.


In grief, the blossom represents love - full, fragrant and beautiful. Within it lies memories of warmth, connection and joy. And then there are the thorns, representing the pain of loss - an extension of that very love. This is the paradox of love: to experience the gift of love in our lives, for many, is also to experience the pain of loss.


So what do we do when we feel our hearts are wrapped tightly by the thorns of grief ? How or when do we allow ourselves to bask, once again, in the beauty of the love we experienced? We begin by first, understanding what grief is; second, we grant ourselves grace; and finally, we give ourselves permission to enjoy the rose.


Understanding Grief


Grief is a universal human experience. It is a feeling that accompanies a natural reaction to loss. It is also one of the most profoundly personal and challenging emotions we can face. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, a cherished pet, a job, or a dream, grief can consume us. It can leave us feeling lost, in despair, and alone.


Hearing the words "You'll be okay" can often bring little solace, especially when the pain feels insurmountable. And the truth is, while you will be okay - you will also be changed by this experience. How that experience will change you, however, depends largely on your willingness and ability to grant yourself grace and to enjoy the rose (but more on that later).


For now, if you are reading this and find yourself in the midst of grief, here is something important for you to know:


You can and you will make it through this, the darkest of times. In grief, your goal is not to "get over it", but to process through it. This means that with time, the intervals between feelings of despair and sadness will begin to space out. Trying to force yourself to "get over it" actually minimizes your experience of love. Trying to be in control of something that is uncontrollable will only deepen your feelings of distress. Grief can feel messy and uncontrollable because grief is not a linear process with neat stages to pass through. It is an unpredictable rollercoaster ride of emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations. At times, it may feel like you’re drowning in sadness, anger, guilt, or numbness. Other times, you may experience moments of acceptance, peace, or even joy. This is all natural and this is okay. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no perfect way to grieve. There is no time limit for grief. Grief. Just. Is. And yes, you WILL process through this. In the meantime, know that your journey of grief is uniquely yours. How you're feeling - whatever you are feeling - however long you are feeling it - it is all okay.


Two sided golden buddha head one side laughing one side serious

There is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no time limit for grief. Grief. Just. Is. Your journey of grief is uniquely yours, and how you're feeling - whatever you are feeling - however long you are feeling it - it is all okay.

Granting Yourself Grace


In grief, "grace" is a verb. It is the action of "honoring one's self", and to honor yourself is to extend self-compassion.


What is self-compassion? Self-compassion is being gentle with yourself and recognizing that you are doing the best you can in the moments, days, months, and years to follow. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise, without judgment or criticism. Engage in activities that bring you peace and joy [doing nothing is an activity!]. Surround yourself with people who offer support and understanding, and do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it.


This is not a time to go it alone, as isolation in grief can foster spiraling thoughts and feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and despair - leaving you in an emotional place that does not honor you or the one(s) you love. Regardless of how independent, self-sufficient, and bad @ss you are, and I know that you are, there is no award for going through this alone. There is no grace in going through this alone.


You do not have to go through this alone.

Image of three women on a park bench sitting together showing their hands


Granting ourselves grace also means finding meaningful ways to honor our loss. This could involve a variety of things: from creating a memorial, to taking "that" trip, to writing a letter to your loved one. The options are limitless. And, here's the thing: The way that you choose to honor your loved one does not have to make sense to anyone but you. Creating a memorial in your home for your pet may be misunderstood by others, but if it brings you peace, that is what matters. Creating a memory box of your relationship after your divorce may frustrate family and friends, but it brings you closure. Writing a letter to a loved one who has died may be unsettling to your friends, but it helps you to feel at peace. Your process does not have to make sense to others. Doing what you want and need to do to safely extend self-compassion as you grieve is okay. Grant yourself grace, be patient with yourself, and be kind to yourself. Honor your loss in the way that is healthiest for you. And remember: Being loving toward yourself is a very healthy way to honor your loss.



Image of a woman on a dock of a body of water placing a lighted lantern in the water. Others are around doing the same.


Giving Yourself Permission to Enjoy the Rose


In the midst of grief, it can be challenging to see beyond the pain; however, just as being pricked by a thorn does not diminish the beauty of the rose, grief does not have to diminish the light of a life once lived. The love experienced can remain vibrant. Many people find that their experience of loss leads to greater clarity, purpose, and appreciation for life. Using this time to reflect on what truly matters to you and how you want to live moving forward is a way that we begin to smell the rose. Perhaps the loss inspires you to pursue a new passion, deepen your relationships, or make some meaningful changes in your life. By giving yourself permission to find meaning and purpose in your grief, you can transform your experience of grief into a source of strength and resilience.


As painful as it may be, grief is a testament to the love, connection, and beauty that enriches our lives. If we allow ourselves to hold on to those memories of love and connection, with time, patience, and self-compassion, you may find that through grief, there is renewed insight and a deeper and more beautiful meaning of self, love, and life.


Know that you are not alone. As you travel this road, reach out for support. And remember, in amidst the thorns of life, there is the beauty of the rose.


Resources

If you are seeking a space to process your grief, I encourage you to reach out to any of the resources listed below. If you are in Florida, you are also welcome to contact us and we would be honored to support you.


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