2022. Woof. I don’t think it’s just me; I have heard various forms of grief from people I work with and people in my life this year. If this resonates with you, please know that you are not alone. It’s been a hard year. If I’m being real, it’s been a hard few years, but let’s focus on one thing at a time here.
There are lots of reasons to grieve. Grief could be related to a death, a tragedy, the state of the world, an ending to a friendship or intimate relationship, or even changes in life circumstances – just to name a few. Because grief can show up in so many forms, our ways of handling grief can look incredibly different.
How many people do you know who kick into action without having time to think or feel when they get hard news? Maybe that’s you! Or maybe you have a totally different way of responding to life’s challenges.
Many of us learn early on about the five stages of grief (if you’re not familiar, they are, “in order”, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Maybe we go through all of those stages. Maybe they are in that order. Maybe they’re in a different order. Maybe we experience some but not all, maybe none.
The point is, there is no right way to grieve. And when we are told that grief is “supposed” to look a specific way but it doesn’t for you, that can so quickly lead to shame. This 5-stage formula does not account for the complexities of who we are, how we cope, or the circumstances contributing to our grief.
What if our grief is coupled with another emotion or emotions? It could very easily accompany feelings of anger, resentment, or even relief, which could in turn lead to feelings of guilt. None of your feelings are bad or wrong. They just are.
I’ve recently experienced multiple grief-inducing experiences, and not only have I dealt with those experiences differently than others have, I’ve dealt with them myself in different ways at different times. At one point what I may have needed was to make art, other times I needed to sweat it out, and other times I needed to tune out and watch trashy tv. While at times I’ve felt supported by the constant supportive outreach of friends and loved ones asking how they can help, other times it has felt exhausting and like work to try to come up with an answer.
There is no right way to grieve.
What has worked for you in the past may not work right now. By all means, if you know the things that comfort and nurture you, now is the time to practice showing yourself that love. And, know that some things may not have the same effect that they have in the past. It could be an opportunity to try something new.
Self-care can look like bubble baths, puppy cuddles, soft blankets, and warm cups of tea if those are things that comfort you. Self-care can also look like forcing yourself to get out of bed in the morning and brushing your teeth, even when it feels really hard. Reminding yourself that it will get easier with practice can help too.
You may find being around people exhausting, or you may find that surrounding yourself with supportive and caring people is soothing. Maybe there is something in between. You may feel like pushing yourself to distract yourself in work helps you through the day, or you may give yourself permission to take more breaks or even straight up slack off.
There is no right way to grieve.
The reminder is that in the wake of grief, it can feel like there is nothing else. I am a strong believer that behind all grief is love. It takes courage to love, because the possibility of pain becomes so much stronger. Although your pain may not totally ever go away, it will subside and create more space for things other than pain. You’ve already shown your capacity for love, and you are capable of the infinite.