Why Grief Is Such An Isolating Experience, How Sharing Our Stories Heal Us & The Most Valuable Lesson Death Brings
To summarise in one word, the last two years have been: 'traumatic'. There (insert sigh of relief) I said it. But the trauma that we have all endured has affected us in different ways: some of us have been hit financially, while others are experiencing mental health struggles for the first time. Some were forced to stay away from vulnerable loved ones, in attempt to keep them safe, while others continue to mourn the lives of loved ones lost.
Whilst offering my deepest condolences to somebody I knew who had lost her father, I offered some insight into what I had learned about grief myself after losing all of my parents...
Though the seven stages of grief offer an informative insight into the process; helping us to understand what we face and feel relieved when we find that it isn't just us who feel this way... I found there to be a deeper, universal truth to grief that nobody really talks about. It's the loneliness that grief leaves us with. The disconnect that we feel and the isolation that we endure... why is this loneliness so strong? I found the answer knee deep in my grief one night, drowning in its tide... it is because:
we can all love one person and we can all mourn them together, but nobody will ever have the same relationship that you had with that person. Nobody else will ever have the same experience, or be able to feel the memories that you have first-hand. Nobody will ever truly know in all its magnitude - how that person made you feel. And what it all really meant and continues to mean for you... that deep, soulful truth that words fall short of trying to describe. For we are oceans of wonder and wisdom, yet puddles in our ability to express the depths inside.
So, how do we endure such loneliness? - We share our memories. And in sharing our memories, we connect our story. A story that, without a voice becomes more isolated than ever. A story that, just like all the others you have inside of you - is worthy of being told.
And in sharing our experience of love, of life and of connection we begin to build other connections that... may never replace what has been lost, but begin to comfort us, heal us and provide for us the community that we need to get us through. Just because the person we loved is now gone, does not mean that our love has died. The heaviness of that love we still carry for them - left unexpressed - can be so painful... that is why it is so important to express it. And to find new ways to express your love to others, yourself and the world.
But Grief is not just about physical death, grief is more complex than that. It is experienced when relationships end. Grief can hit us when a chapter of our own lives end. And as somebody who works with people with complex Hoarding tendencies, I see physical manifestations of peoples grief all the time. Grief that individuals themselves may not even yet recognise as grief...
.. I see the clothes that no longer fit a person and I understand that the reason they can't let go of it is because the memory it evokes of a chapter of their life they miss, a love they lost, or a version of themselves that they will never get to experience again.
I see the cupboard full of baby clothes in the home of a mother. A mother whose baby is now an adult. But she, still unable to let go and begin to process the grief that comes with having a child that is now fully grown. A child that, now no longer needs her as much. She is unable to let go. And I feel her pain.
But I also see so much beauty...
In the first pair of baby shoes I see evidence of how miraculous new life can be and I understand their sentiment.
In the midst of realising ones own mortality, I see people push past fear and begin to open themselves up to the world and life in ways they had never before imagined they even could.
And in death, I found the deepest gratitude. Not because somebody told me to. But because when the darkness began to subside, I began to see a new light shining. And because of that darkness that lead me to that light, I now know how lucky I am just to have woken up today... Just to be alive.
So, if you take anything from this article today, then I want you to take this in for a moment: just how freakishly miraculous your life really is. How fortunate you are for being here right now.
We act like it isn't a miracle... We remember in fleeting, sobering moments like the death of a loved one and just like a perfume that dulls overtime against our skin... we forget it again. But I want to remind you. Right now- that your life is magical.
Truly. Fucking. Magical.
..Like, consider this: if your Great Gran never met your Great Grandad you wouldn't even be here right now...
.. would you?
Sending you so much L O V E !