How to Give Grief the Attention, Time and Space it Deserves

Is there such a thing as a finale that’s never complete?  I think there is.  It comes when a relationship is broken or wrecked or terminated, but the person does not die or perhaps the person physically moves and there remains a place-setting in one’s mind’s eye.  It comes when break-ups happen, yet when the circle of friends, church family or workplace remains the same.  It comes when families split up and divorce happens.  Though custody and memories are an ever-reminding links.  It comes when a person seeks help, receives help, then wants help again, but the help is not available as it was before.  I will attempt to address this grief journey by citing examples of when “grieving while living” works.  Without grief, one may miss the opportunities that may surface years down the road while one gets stuck focusing on the disconnection, separation or loss.

First, grief is attached to loss.  It is natural.  In general, losses are identified in categories.  There is a completion part, such as death.  Loss happens while people live.  Such things as dating breakup, divorce, coworkers who change jobs or retire or neighborhood friends who move away.  Grief exists in these times and countless more.  Grief can be in varying degrees.  The ways of grieving do include the simple disappointment that can be easily skipped over–especially when the importance of the experience is cheapened by other people.   Yesterday is where the past starts.  Negative emotions can bubble up because of everything that happened yesterday can also be considered grief.

Second, what does this grief feel like when it surfaces?  It can be as light as a poke or a piercing jab or a nudge.  However it surfaces it is a notification that something has changed.  Grief can be identified as the emotional down turn.  I’ve experienced grief in the slightest measure when routines change.  I remember walking to school and always looking for the other neighborhood kids who often walked to school too.  Sometimes the timing was just right and we would gather as a group.  Many more times I walked alone.  Grief is a silent internal notice that a contact should have or might have been made, but did not.  The disconnection represents something missing that used to be and no longer is.

Third, there are nudges that come up in memories of both good times and bad.  There have been times when I want to call someone from the past to say “remember when…” and because of that, this happened.  Years later, after a point of separation, there come moments where circumstances arise that make me feel that an event or information or knowledge would be so appropriate to share.  I don’t.  Sometimes I can’t because the last time we met the guillotine dropped on the relationship.  Or specific questions surface in my head like “who am I to interfere into someone else’s life?”

Grief lingers.  It has a way of revealing itself with unreal assurance that if only another brief dialogue could occur, both lives would be better for it.  This complicates the grief because generally due to pre-existing conditions, the likelihood of this ever happening is slim to none.  A peculiar adage that is often repeated – “time heals all wounds” – is a great lie.  Time does not do that.  Time can change the pain.  Time can add or subtract from pain based on circumstances.  Time can prolong the pain because the loss builds a void.  There emptiness is stored.  With this formation, pain collects pretended, unrealistic fiction.  Space held in magical thinking, make-believe and mystical imagination gets fortified over time.  In this phenomenal void, irritation grows toward an infection level and weapons continue to be sharpened.  Losses can be pictured as wounds that heal with painful scars.  Sometimes I like to tug at my scars in order to loosen the tissue and replay the memory.  Sometimes I re-examine what may have been impossible at the time with the idea that what seemed to be impossible has grown to be possible.  I want to believe that wisdom is grown in failures, mistakes and bad behavior.  I want to believe I often miss the opportunity that is available in the original consideration, evaluation, and examination.  How do you give credit where credit is due if the one who merits it has unlinked?

Grief continues.  It shows up and settles back down.  Each time grief surfaces, whether in the good times or bad, please greet it.  It wants time and space.  Grief softens overtime, but I encourage you to never believe it just vanishes.  Grief moves us and can intensely motivate us.  Believe it!  If you choose to pull at your scars and test the possibility of reconnection, be careful.  Expect nothing in your attempts to connect.  Your outreach may hit a bruise or a hurt of the other person that you do not know is there. But if you are up for the challenge to make an attempt to contact, you can be sure that the outcome of this type of grieving will result in a deeper understanding of yourself.  There is rationale for running into a closed door.  There may be phenomenal considerations in making the connection attempts with the understanding that no external outcome may result.

Grief waits.  Grief does not disappear.  Grief complicates.  Grief fogs up our perspectives.  Grief can sidetrack our paths.  Grief begs for attention, time and space.  Grief teaches things that could never be learned without the pain that even the simplest loss generates.  Take care in your explorations.

“What is essential does not die but clarifies.”  Thornton Wilder