Grief is one of the most feared emotions along the spectrum of being human. It is often ostracized instead of welcomed as an inevitable, human experience.
One of the isolating and difficult things about grief can be feeling like other people don't get us or our multilayered feelings around our loss, especially as time goes on.
I recently posed this question on social media:
What do you wish the world understood about your grief?
I received the following 23 responses from humans who have lost young children, adult children, husbands, wives, mothers, or fathers to suicide, cancer, accidents and more.
- That it's always there, and pretty close to the surface. And it's weird because sometimes I want to talk about it and sometimes I don't. I don't expect anyone to know which way I'm feeling on any given day, but I want to be okay with the awkwardness and I want others to be okay with it too.
- That it's harder and longer than I could have ever expected.
- I wish that people, especially family members, knew that grief is not a switch that you can just turn off because it’s time to move on. Yes, we try to move on because our loved one is resting in peace and we have the right to enjoy the rest of our life as much as we can. But, something triggers a memory and the grief is back. So, we need to work through it again. It’s easier said than done unfortunately.
- You miss the love that filled up that space.
- That it becomes your shadow. Forever present even when not visible to all eyes. Most of all to acknowledge that it’s okay to talk about it. And, no, you won’t remind me of it if you bring it up. My grief is who I am now. The new me. I wish that everyone was more comfortable with my grief. It reinforces the fact that I lost my beautiful daughter and that will never change.
- I don't want their husbands. And being widowed is not contagious.
- It has changed the whole dynamics of our family and I am no longer the person I used to be. I'm not quite sure who I am any more.
- That it feels like an amputation and that it has no timetable.
- That there is no right or wrong way to grieve. That everyone’s timeline is different. That it will reopen many times throughout your life and you have to work through it again when it is retriggered, but this does not mean you are stuck or not getting on with your life.
- How heavy empty is.
- That watching my children grieve is almost worse than my husband's death. That I wish there was more talk about older teenagers losing a parent and that their friends’ parents knew more about helping their kids support my girls during this terribly hard time.
- That it’s changed me in every way.
- I wish the world knew that my grief has touched every emotion from sadness, anger, guilt and unbearable heartache. In the early months I felt off balance, out of control and lost. With time I have forgiven myself and my father for his death by suicide. There are still days it all feels like a nightmare that I just can't wake up from. The sorrow comes in waves, then subsides into acceptance. Sometimes worry and anxiety take over and I wonder how I can possibly survive the loss of another loved one.
- How bad it hurts.
- That it doesn’t go away. I always feel it. I am changed because of it. But I don’t think others feel comfortable knowing that I still hurt and that I always will. That I want to talk about how much I miss my mom, but I suck it up because I don’t think others feel comfortable with my grief. That it doesn’t mean I’m crazy or need “help.”
- That every new loss sets in motion a renewed loss of everyone else. Compounded with each loss.
- That it hurts like no other pain you can possibly describe and yet no other person will experience this. Because even though they will experience grief, their pain will be different. All grief is unique and individual like snowflakes. No two are the same. I wish it was talked about more. I wish it to be acceptable, that’s it’s okay to not be okay. I wish for all grievers to be heard and not tried to be fixed.
- That we don't choose grief. The mind cannot turn off and on what the heart and soul feel just because "they" want the old you back.
- That it softens but it’s something I will carry with me the rest of my life.
- That they are the same as they always were and I am not. My life did not go on after my loss as theirs did. And my life will stay in this realm unknown to them forever. I would like them to know that they will never truly feel profound loss like this until it happens to them.
- That I will never stop grieving my losses.
- I wish people knew that the grief parents feel about their child with special needs is something they have to carry and honor and process their whole lives.
- That even a year later there are days where it hurts just as bad as it did the moment I found out; that even when the number of years reaches fifty, there will still be those crippling days.
When we humans trust our capacity to hold other humans, to let unfold and be told our deepest layers of humanity, rich with heartache and love, something powerful happens. In the pause before we reach for a way to fix someone, that moment where we choose to sit with what is uncomfortable and unfixable, we find a sweet spot of being human, where all that is required is showing up to listen, see, hold, and honor another person's truth or pain.
(Have a story of loss the world needs to hear? Share it here.)