Grief seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. At the most unexpected and inconvenient moments, it shows up unannounced. You may be having dinner with family, walking down the grocery store aisle, or simply taking a walk around your neighborhood. Right now, your world may feel colored in blues and grays. Your heart focused on the pain you feel and not on the things you have to be grateful for. That’s okay. Grief can feel overwhelming, and for a time, it may feel like it’s stealing your joy and thankfulness.
Just remember these three things as you work through the complex emotions of grief:
- Grief takes a different path with everyone.
- Grief is the result of deep love.
- Grief won’t steal your joy and thankfulness forever.
Grief Takes a Different Path with Everyone
Did you know that grief manifests differently for every person? For example, your grief may include anger and sadness. For someone else, it may bring guilt and a deep sense of regret. In short, don’t feel like something is wrong if grief is stealing your joy because that’s just part of the process for you. Instead, acknowledge your feelings, accept them, and then begin to actively work through your grief. Taking intentional time to practice thankfulness can help, even when you don’t feel like it.
For helpful information on how to practice gratitude, go to Nature & Your Grief Journey or Practicing Remembrance & Gratitude During Times of Grief. It’s not going to happen overnight, but as you sort through your emotions, your view of the world will get lighter and lighter until you can see the silver lining again.
Grief is the Result of Caring
Dr. Alan Wolfelt, nationally recognized grief counselor and educator, has found that grief is not a universal experience. In many ways, grief is closely related to care or even love. If you don’t care about something, then you won’t grieve it. Sometimes, the care is positive – like love for a spouse. Other times, the care is associated with a negative experience – like wishing you’d had a better relationship with a parent or sibling. Both situations will elicit feelings of grief for very different reasons, but both are because, at some level, you cared or loved.
Dr. Wolfelt says:
“Love inevitably leads to grief. You see, love and grief are two sides of the same precious coin. One does not – and cannot – exist without the other. People sometimes say that grief is the price we pay for the joy of having loved. This also means that grief is not a universal experience. Grief is predicated on our capacity to give and receive love. Some people choose not to love, and so, never grieve. If we allow ourselves the grace that comes with love, however, we must allow ourselves the grace that is required to mourn.”
Knowing that your grief is tied to your complex, emotional feelings about a particular person doesn’t make the process any easier. But, in a way, it is comforting. What you’re feeling is natural and normal. Even if the relationship was not wholly positive, try not to suppress what you feel. Instead, find healthy ways to engage with your feelings and give yourself permission to grieve.
Grief Won’t Steal Your Joy & Thankfulness Forever
It doesn’t feel like it right now, but grief won’t color your world so vividly forever. Will you always miss the person who has died? Absolutely, no question. Will you “get over” the loss? In many ways, you won’t. There will be moments throughout your life when grief may show up again. Can you find a way to move forward? Yes, there is hope after loss.
While time doesn’t heal wounds, it does give you the space you need to work through your grief. Right after a loss, the pain is at its sharpest. Over time, its sting does lessen and occurs less frequently. Taking time to sit with your pain, to experience it, and to wrestle with it will help you move toward healing and reconciliation. It won’t be easy, but it’s necessary to embracing life and thankfulness again.
Tips & Tools for Working Through Your Grief
Dr. Wolfelt says, “It is not instinctive to see grief and the need to openly mourn as something to honor…[but] to honor your grief is not self-destructive or harmful, it is courageous and life-giving.” But perhaps you don’t know how to begin. How do you embark on the work of grief? How do you confront your pain, so that you can process it in a healthy way?
To help you on your journey, check out the resources below. They will help you work through your feelings and discover the best want for you to move forward and find joy in life again. Grief won’t steal your joy or your thankfulness forever – unless you let it. Above all, remember that with intentionality and fortitude, you will see the sun again, and it will be beautiful.