“A woman in the Far East who had lost her boy went to the Brahman and said: ‘You must give me back my boy, you must, you must!’ The Braham with calm dignity said to her: ‘Come, Daughter, you must go out and get the leaves of a plant (which was as common as the commonest weeds with us) and make a tea of the leaves and drink the tea, and I will give you back your boy. But, the leaves must be gathered from the dooryard of a family that has never known sorrow.’
The woman traveled from village to village, and from province to province, and finally, heartsore and footsore she returned to her leader, saying: ‘Father, I have traveled all over the land, but I cannot find one home where sorrow has not been.” -unknown
None have been untouched by sorrow. But our sorrow is ours to bear. We bear it with the help of our family, our friends, our religious leaders, and communities, but one thing is a definite: no one can remove the sorrow from us, we have to do the work.
I call this exhausting experience “grief-work.” Grief is a full-time job in the months and years immediately following a significant loss. You can postpone or ignore it, but it awaits you, and eventually, you must face it. Grief work has been compared to peeling an onion. An onion is overwhelmingly strong to eat raw, it stings your eyes, and it has many layers. I find that it’s an excellent analogy.
The necessity of grief work encompasses all types of grief. Divorce, loss of physical health, a child that has been born with disabilities, financial ruin, and of course, death, require healing called mourning, or grief.
In my situation, I innately found that grief-work was necessary and began immediately after my teenage son passed away unexpectedly. The required work came immediately upon me as if I didn’t have a choice.
Grief stood shoulder to shoulder with me; its heaviness could not be lightened without effort. It remained my constant companion while I peeled my bitter onion. Some layers were tougher than others. Some were easily peeled and others were stubbornly difficult and required months of time.
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I have said many times to myself and to others in the process of grief: “Life will never be the same, and you’ll never ‘get over it’, but you will learn to accept the unacceptable and have joy again.” Grief is the process that leads us to accept the unacceptable. Anything worth attaining requires hard work. Coming to a place of understanding and acceptance requires fierce strength but a full life awaits you.
Grief work suggestions:
1.Therapy: If you already have a therapist you’ve worked with in the past, begin there, they already have a relationship with you. You may find that you need someone more specialized in grief counseling. Also, consider a medical psychiatrist if you think medication could help you. There should be no stigma in the use of medical measures.
Related link: When depression strikes: 5 Ways to Fight Back
2. Be kind to yourself: There will be times of debilitating heartache that can catch you unaware, years down the road. Because grief is uncomfortable, we want to find a magical way to move through it quickly. Instead, allow yourself to sit in your grief and feel it. Don’t attempt to minimize and discard the facets of grief. Practice mindfulness in those moments; talk yourself through it. Use the tools you’ve learned in counseling.
3. Do not assign a time limit: Well-meaning friends and acquaintances often times made comments such as, “In a year you’ll feel better.”; that is not necessarily true. There is no limit to the time you spend in your grief work. Even when you are well on your way to health, you are still vulnerable to times of sudden sadness. That is normal. Grief is the reflection of the severity of our loss. I have heard, in regards to death, ‘we suffer greatly because we have loved deeply.’ Grieving is considered healthy.
4. Read books and attend support groups: Whatever the form of loss, there are self-help and informational books that help immeasurably. There are groups for nearly every type of loss.. Talking with those who are experiencing a similar trial, is immensely helpful.