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There is a saying that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. And may I add to the list: grief.
I doubt there is a person who escapes this life without being touched by grief.
In my past days as a full-time journalist, I came to know that every single person has a story to tell. At any given point in time in our lives, a story can be told about each one of us that can include joys and celebrations and accomplishments. But give any of us a couple of months, and the story can cycle into a time of change and loss or grief and trauma. And then the cycle turns over again to good news.
Such is life.
Whenever someone is so down they can’t stand it — I ask them to hold on for a few weeks. I assure them that situations and circumstances more often than not will change.
I check back with them and we discuss the positive things (sometimes small) that have happened since we last spoke.
People grieve and feel the loss of many things — not just those we love, but all kinds of life’s moments.
We grieve the loss of jobs, of positions, of partnerships, of pets and of anything that has changed after giving us comfort and security for any amount of time.
We grieve “the way our life used to be,” even if it wasn’t the greatest.
Each grief is different, just as each person is different. You should never be judged for the way you grieve. It is too individual. Only you know the depth and breadth of your loss. Only you are the one feeling it.
“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight,” says the great poet and writer Kahlil Gibran.
In other words, we grieve what we have loved. And we should be grateful that we have known that love and received its blessing for any amount of time.
In the beginning, there are no words that will comfort those who have experienced unexpected and tragic losses. Any of us who have been profoundly grieved know that the only thing that will comfort us is to have our loved ones back. But such is not to happen.
No amount of hugs, kind words or kind deeds are going to make it happen. And so, we grieve. Feeling alone in our grief.
Time does not heal all wounds. But it allows us to breathe again — eventually.
We notice early on that life continues all around us. First, we wonder how can this be? How can people be laughing and talking and singing and living when all is not right with the world?
But we have been created to be resilient. Note I did not say strong. It’s OK not to be strong when we grieve. Resilience means we will adapt to our new reality.
Two of the most powerful words in my life are: “It is.”
In grief and loss, I have always been able to reach that place where I pull myself out from under metaphorical covers of grief and realize that my world has changed and I have to accept that “it is.” What has happened has happened. My “it is” becomes a starting point for the rest of my life.
We grieve what we have loved. And we should be grateful that we have known that love and received its blessing for any amount of time.
Sometimes, it takes months and even years to get to that point. Everyone is different. And it is certainly a state of mind that can’t be rushed towards. Yet, in a world where things happen that we have no control over, this is something that I have the power to decide to do for myself. To eventually journey to the “it is” of my life.
Columbia University psychiatrist Katherine Shear says grief is: “by definition, the deep, wrenching sorrow of loss. The initial intense anguish — acute grief — usually abates with time.” But she said in a 2016 article in the U.K. newspaper The Independent, that something she refers to as “complicated grief” is more chronic and more emotionally intense and it stays at acute levels for longer.
In her therapy with people, which involves listening to the person talk about their grief, she says she doesn’t try to “lower grief intensity. I’m just trying to turn the Titanic one degree.”
We’ve had our Titanics here in Nova Scotia over the last month. We are all grieving losses of many kinds. This gentle province of ours has been rocked to our very core.
If ever there was a time to be kind with one another, it is now. Because you never know what grief any one of us is carrying around in our hearts.
Rosemary Godin is a retired clergy and print journalist. She lives with hubby and Chuck (the dog) in Westmount where she learns a new word every day – and some are repeatable. You can reach her at: email@example.com.