Grief is a powerful and complex emotion that accompanies losing a loved one. It can leave us feeling shattered, disoriented, and uncertain about our future. However, amidst the darkness, there is an opportunity for growth and relearning. One of the complexities of grief is that the relationship with the deceased continues after they die. For example, grief sometimes brings a longing for forgiveness, relief or the emotional resolution of unfinished conflicts.
As a psychotherapist and in my personal experience, I am aware of the remarkable capacity of individuals to navigate the turbulent waters of grief and continue to emerge stronger, wiser, and more resilient each time.
Grief is a lifelong experience that never goes away. Why? Because we never stop loving the person who died. Grief is anchored in love. It requires us to do the work of sober introspection in contrast to emotional evasion. It’s a challenging and incredibly uncomfortable process. And in my experience, transformation and growth are more likely to happen when we fully and soberly embark on it.
In this Blog, I want to use some of my personal journey of grief as much as the countless individuals I have encountered and worked with to explore the transformative journey of relearning after grief.
When we open up to the experience of grief with curiosity and compassion, we can discover how it can lead to a renewed sense of purpose, joy, and inner strength.
Acknowledge the Depths of Grief:
The first step in relearning after grief is acknowledging the magnitude of our sorrow’s depths. Grief is a natural response to loss; honouring and giving space to our emotions is crucial. Allow yourself to mourn, cry, and express your anger, guilt and pain. By acknowledging the intensity of grief, we create a solid foundation for the uncertain path of relearning.
Grief can be accompanied by guilt, isolation, self-blame, and a sense of emptiness. Understand that it is normal to experience a wide range of emotions and that healing takes time. Treat the part of yourself grieving with kindness, patience, and understanding as you navigate this delicate process. Let your love be your compass once shared with the people you’ve lost.
Grief often shakes the very core of our identity. As we move forward, it becomes crucial to rediscover who we are and what brings us joy and meaning. Questions such as “Am I still a mother or a father?”, “Am I still a spouse?” or “a daughter or son?” are expected and part of the new mental and emotional landscape.
Grief opens the windows to help us redefine or relocate our place in relationships. It can offer the opportunity to reflect and identify old patterns of being in relationships that perhaps we need to revisit. It allows us to integrate growth and transformation through grief and gently acknowledge the roles that may not serve us anymore.
Engage or resume activities that once brought you happiness or a sense of belonging. When you feel readier, explore new interests and passions that can help you reshape your sense of self and purpose. This process allows you to reintegrate your identity with the profound changes that grief has brought into your life.
Cultivate Supportive Relationships:
Relearning after grief is not a journey to be travelled alone all the time, even though a sense of aloneness is present most of the time as you move forward. At the same time, allow yourself to be alone when you need space to connect with the part of yourself grieving and feeling overwhelmed by other people’s presence.
Seek support from loved ones, friends, or a grief support group. Surrounding yourself with compassionate individuals who understand or are open to understanding your pain and your journey can provide solace, guidance, and encouragement. Sharing your experiences and emotions with others who have walked a similar path can be healing.
Loss often challenges our perception of life’s meaning and purpose. Relearning after grief involves redefining your purpose in light of the loss you’ve experienced.
Reflect on what you’ve learned and continue to learn through your grief and how it can contribute to your personal growth and perhaps the growth of others.
Engage in activities that align with your values and bring a sense of purpose to your life. Embrace the opportunity to impact others going through their own grief journeys positively.
Connect with Nature:
Connecting with nature exposes us to constant changes as the different seasons move through the year. Looking deeply into nature invites us to discover resilience, adaptation and constantly evolving things. The flowers have a sweet and short life. During the cherry blossom season, in the Japanese tradition, Sakura trees symbolize birth and death, the impermanent nature of life.
For example, Spring is a fabulous time of the year for noticing the changes and enduring transformations in nature after surviving the winter, paying attention to how everything is constantly changing and rebirthing.
Practice Mindfulness and Gratitude:
Mindfulness helps us stay present in the moment, fostering acceptance and allowing us to experience the wholeness of life, the co-existence of opposite emotions and life events.
Mindfulness helps us to reconnect with the experience of impermanence and perpetual change. Watching the show ‘Six Feet Under,’ one of the characters who just lost a loved one said: “Why do we have to die?”. The funeral director Nate responded: “To make life important.” It reminded me of how addressing death and the impermanence of life is fundamental in Buddhist philosophy. Death is considered to be ever-present and a natural part of existence. It invites us to recognize how much life is made of fleeting and ordinary moments. With some grace, we can find beauty and the extraordinary in ordinary moments, such as holding a cup of tea while watching our favourite show, laughing at a silly joke with a friend, or watching a baby smile.
Gratitude shifts our focus to integrating opposite experiences, such as loss and appreciation, reminding us that we have what the person who died perhaps desired the most: to have more time.
Mindfulness and Gratitude can nourish and pave the way for healing and growth.
Relearning after grief is a profound and transformative journey. Remember, in the depths of grief lies the potential for profound personal transformation, growth and a life imbued with newfound meaning and purpose.