I don’t know anybody who hasn’t lost somebody or something close to them, somebody they loved. Anybody you meet on the street, they have a story of some kind of loss in their eyes. But current society frowns upon grief. Everything is perfect, all the time! It almost seems like we are not allowed to show grief in public. And if we do, we are being looked at like we are weirdos, crazy people.
When we are sad, we are being told to “look at the bright side” and “to let go and move on”.
When a child cries because he is hurt – “big boys don’t cry” or “It isn’t that bad” or “Don’t cry, you are ok” – are the usual things adults say.
Are grief and sadness as bad as people learned us?
We are being programmed to believe that grief and sadness is bad and that we should feel happy all the time.
Don’t believe me? Open your social media – and there it is. Smiling, glowing, healthy, skinny, tanned, big boobs, big ass in a bikini, muscular people – on the beach, in front of their car or some exotic place – waving at you and telling you that LIFE IS GOOD! How does it make you feel?
Do you feel like there is something wrong with you because you don’t feel happy?
Do you start pretending you are happy AF? Just to fit in? Do you force yourself to laugh through your teeth just to seem normal?
Don’t neglect grief
Grief is one of humanity’s core faculty that has been totally neglected.
We are not prepared for the moment when grief arrives at our doorstep. We don’t have a clue how to respond to it, how to let it into our home.
Immediately we start to look how to exit, how to barricade the door and keep the grief out.
Why is it acceptable to laugh in the public and share that happiness, but when you cry in public, you feel ashamed so you just stop crying?
We are being denied the permission to reveal and share our grief and sorrow. So we become masters in surviving, performing, getting by and pretending.
I know I did that for sure. When my first boyfriend (I was 19 at the time) got terminally sick, I literally ran away. I took my stuff and I ran 2000km away from him and the pain of loss that was inevitable. I thought I’d outsmart grief. I did not! But I didn’t realize it back then.
After he passed away (he was 27), I did not give in. I was in a new country, I could pretend none of it happened. I could pretend I was happy – all the time. I found strategic ways on how to avoid the grief. Being busy, too much drinking, going out…. Ha, take that, grief!
Second time I tried to keep grief out of ‘my house’ was when my mom passed away. Don’t get me wrong, my heart broke into a million pieces. But after her funeral I returned to Singapore (the funeral was in Slovakia), I gave everybody specific instructions not to hug me, or giving me the “we are so sorry for your loss” looks. I was pretending everything was ok, that I was ok, I wanted everything ‘business as usual’.
I refused to say “my mom passed away” in Slovakian, because I knew it would make it real. I would say “ my mom went away”. It might not make sense to you, but “went” and “passed away” resonated quite differently with me. I lived a happy life, I was working out, going places, led a happy life. So I thought.
I did smile. I did exercise. But it wasn’t the same as before. I wasn’t strong, I wasn’t active, I wasn’t living in the present. I was lingering somewhere. I had no vitality in me at all. No energy, nothing! I was an empty shell on autopilot and a big smile on my face!
Let grief ripen you
Yes, we’ve been told how to “do” grieving according to societal rules, but not how to allow the grief to ripen us into mature human beings. Nobody taught us that there is vitality in grief.
When I trained Muay Thai, my trainers would say “Oh my, you got some powerful punches, you are very strong!” But I wasn’t strong. I was hurt, I was aggressive, I was enraged, I was screaming on the inside! But nobody could hear me and I wouldn’t show it – because I wanted to be happy all the time!
It took me 2 years and 3 months after my mom passed away to whisper in my own language “my mom passed away”. I must have whispered it at least 100 times. I broke down, for the first time since my boyfriend passed away. First time since my mom passed away.
I’m very grateful that I was surrounded by people who understood the power of grief. This is what they understood:
- They understood I needed to learn how to lean into the grief, how to walk with it.
- They understood that there is vitality in grief.
- They let me be, they didn’t distract me with words or hugs.
- They let me experience the pain to the fullest.
Once I allowed myself to feel that pain, I started to grieve. It didn’t matter where I was when I felt the grief, I let it out. I cried at work, on the train, on the bus, in the store.
Let grief make you stronger, grateful and compassionated
Last year, my granny passed away (my mom’s mom) and last week I lost my uncle (my mom’s brother). They were my connections to my childhood memories. Gone. I’m not pretending everything is ok. I invited the grief into my house and I created a relationship with it. I let the grief wash over me and make me a stronger, more grateful, and compassionate human being.
We all have the choice! I know that grief can make you paralyzed, but I’m also telling you that you can snap yourself out of it.
On the other hand, when you lose a loved one, you often lose the will to do simple things that used to make you happy. You lose the will to take a shower or eat anything else that doesn’t come in a box. Laying curled up in your bed or sofa – that’s your new ‘normal’.
Dealing with grief can be a devastating experience. Even more, if you are facing it alone.
I’m here to tell you that you have to face your fears and learn how to accept this loss.
I’m here to tell you that you must learn how to move forward with this loss. If you don’t, you will lose your vitality. And life without vitality is like waiting for death.
3 practical tips to find vitality in your grief
Whenever we suffer, our minds can go to three places that make the situation immediately worse.
Three emotions. And fear. They will rob you off your vitality.
There is nothing that can bring your loved one back, or that job or your marriage you ‘lost’. But what you CAN DO is to learn how to find vitality in your grief and sorrow.
Tip 1. LOSS
The first trigger for more suffering is LOSS. Focusing on the absence of someone from your life makes you think about the lost opportunities with them in the future. No more new memories, no new pictures. It is very easy (and tempting) to focus on the negative.
When you grieve, you grieve not for the things that others will miss, but for what you will miss about them.
Every thought, every sentence begins with “I will miss” is now a trigger for more suffering.
But what if…… What if you thought about all the good times you had with the person you lost? All the beautiful, joyful experiences you were able to share together? What if you understood that life is happening for you, not to you? You are more than capable of changing your state of mind. Feel and experience the grief – but don’t let it consume you.
Tip 2. LESS
The second trigger for more suffering is your belief that you are or have less. This thought prolongs the suffering.
You don’t feel complete without your loved one. You feel like life is less worth living without them. You feel your days have less joy, less love, less meaning.
Why should you exercise or eat healthy when your loved one is not there anymore?
What if I told you that you are complete all on your own. What if I told you that you are NOT less. No matter how painful and endless your situation feels right now, your life WILL go on.
It is up to you to decide not to get those limiting believes rob you of your vitality and zest for life.
Tip 3. NEVER
I kept the best for last. In this case, the worst and most damaging. The third trigger of suffering is NEVER.
- “You will never meet anybody like the person you loved”
- “You will never find anybody who will love you as much as the person that you lost”
- “You will never find the same or better job”
- “You will never have a more loving dog or a cat”
Are these thoughts helping anything? No. And yet, that’s all you can think about. And they make you feel like shit, more and more every day. The longer you think about “never”, the shittier you feel.
The longer you are giving into these limiting beliefs, the less vital you will feel. The less vital you feel, the shittier you will feel. Round and round you go.
You are capable of taking control of your thoughts. You can step away from the mental triggers that keep you lingering in negativity.
Getting over loss or death doesn’t happen overnight.
You have my permission to feel the pain deeply. Feel it! Don’t try to hide it, don’t try to distract yourself, stop pretending life is good.
Acknowledge your feelings, be aware of your emotions, confront them head on. Then, decide to end these negative thoughts. Giving into loss, less and never will make it harder to feel vital and alive again.
I know that this is easier said than done. Trust me, I know! And you might be dealing with something horrible, something devastating right now – but guess what? There will be more loss and grieve in your life.
I wish I could tell you that this is it. From now on, no more pain and suffering. I would be lying to you.
But I want to tell you that by learning how to deal with these paralyzing feelings and thoughts right now, you will be able to open the door with faith when grief comes knocking.
I know YOU CAN! Do you?