These reactions are really our bodies taking care and are a natural response. They are not something to be overcome necessarily or beaten through. The feelings are messy, yet we are in the right place. When we consider that:
RESILIENCE implies a strong speedy return to an original form after being bent or compressed;
OVERCOME means to prevail over;
RECOVER means to regain or get again then is seems as if grief is something dangerous that we should flee from, or battle or fight.
The loss is great and it is painful. Grief is our way of healing, albeit anguishing. There is no going back to the way it was before, much as we would like to. Turning away from pain means turning away from the radical growth that has been forced upon us.
Healing takes place at the base of the soul and this involves pain. When we break a limb, there is a thicker denser bone that is reformed. Strength comes from this. When we emotionally live through and with grief and pain, the opportunity we have is to develop:
FORTITUDE. The emotional strength from facing difficulty and adversity especially over the long haul.
We BEAR the pain. This means we carry and endure. We also learn that we CAN carry and endure.
COURAGE is facing fear and doing something anyway. It is truly COURAGEOUS to face the intense pain and the loss that feels as if it will break you. We learn we can persevere and withstand.
From this comes TRANSFORMATION. Transforming happens when we go through a dramatic change.
Is grief pleasant? No it hurts. It breaks us down. It transforms us. We can never go back. We learn we have little control and this makes us humble and teachable, Hanging on by our fingernails expresses fortitude and courage. We learn we CAN hang on. Viscerally understanding that nothing in life is guaranteed unleashes gratitude for what is in the present in a way that we otherwise could not deeply understand.
We need time to slow down. Time and space to feel supported in taking as long as we need. We need to distract ourselves so that we can regain the energy to face the pain again- not to run away. We need to respect that we are strong even as we are falling apart. We are breathing, enduring, developing fortitude and a courage that will forever transform us. There is not closure, only transformation after coming back together again in a new way.
How can we help those we love who are grieving? Be present with compassionate understanding. That is the light. Sit with and help people bear what they need to. Encourage people to slow down and take the time they need with their sense of brokenness and pain.
We will carry the scars of loss, yet those scars are what remind us we are strong, we endured with fortitude, we can appreciate what is and we have courage.
It is OK not to overcome, to prevail over. It is Ok to move through, sit with, bear, breathe, and to hang on by your fingernails as long as it takes. There will be a transformed normal, a new place built on the strength that has grown through the tangled and sharp edges of grief.