Grieving takes a tremendous amount of energy, especially during that first eighteen months. I am constantly reminding my grieving clients that their psyches are working really hard because they have a tendency to forget the simple notion that the act of grieving is hard, exhausting work.
In fact, even though we know that we have experienced a loss in the recent past, we are unlikely to attribute our common symptoms of grief like numbness, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, difficulty concentrating, irritability and fatigue to its actual source: grief. People – especially women – usually blame themselves for these actual grief reactions. Even worse, they often berate themselves for being lame, stupid, lazy, ridiculous, and overly sensitive for feeling those feelings or reacting that way. It’s so sad because the reality is they are punishing themselves for grieving.
That stops today. You are grieving and grieving takes so, so much from you. It’s taking from you right now. From the moment you found out that the death occurred you have been working hard accepting that hard truth, accepting what it means, accepting that your life is different and that it has been forever changed. You have been processing pain, the deep sadness, the fear, the loneliness, the anxiety, the anger, the guilt (always so much guilt!) and a million other feelings. You’ve been making arrangements and dealing with the changes and you have to do things you didn’t have to do before.
You’ve also been busy figuring out where to go from here, what your life will be, how to get you needs met and who the hell is going to love you like that? You’ve also been figuring out how to continue your bond with the person who died, what that will look like and how you will love and honor him/her and how you’re going to continue to love with this broken heart of yours. Oh, and you’ve doing all this deep grief work – some of it conscious, some of it unconscious – while living your full life!!
So, be loving and gentle with yourself as you go through your grief and when you have some of those thoughts, feelings and reactions I mentioned above, acknowledge them as grief and definitely don’t call yourself any names. Own that you are working really hard.
Grief does take our energy and is work, yes, but ultimately, I see it as a precious, sacred gift. Yes, you read that right. A gift. Grief is with us for one reason: we loved. Grief is the consequence of love. Grief will be part of every single relationship we will ever have. We can’t have the relationship with all that good love and happy part without the grief part. So, as hard as the grief part is and as much as it will take when it comes around again for me, I’ll take grief every time.
Note: The grief work mentioned above is paraphrased from Worden’s Tasks of Mourning by J. William Worden in his 2009 book Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner 4th ed., New York: Springer