If someone were to ask me how to grieve WELL, my answer would be a dichotomy, a paradox, a seeming contradiction.
But see, I firmly believe that we as humans often consist of polar opposites abiding in our body and mind. In fact, it’s sometimes essential for opposites to be in existence for us to find balance.
And this is even true with grieving. My answer to grieving well is this: Sometimes you gotta give yourself permission to utterly sink. And sometimes … you have to force yourself to rise up.
Opposites, see? And sooo hard and complicated and messy.
There are times you have to let the waves crash into you and not try to fight it. You must let them envelope you, crush you and devastate you. Like a swimmer lost at sea, trying to keep afloat in a storm, at some point they can’t fight the power of the waters and must surrender.
And it means being tossed around.
Grieving well is having the moments where you must feel all the massive emotions, without fighting it or suppressing it or covering it up. And that means letting yourself be miserable. And that’s okay.
But now the opposite …
Grieving well is also times when you fight back. Kick those legs and swim. Push against the current. It’s times of making a purposeful decision to not let grief consume you ALL the time. It’s making deliberate decisions to do what you don’t feel like doing, to push when you are too tired, to do something to create life when you feel dead. It’s times of knowing … knowing! … that you must be intentional to keep living. It’s knowing you can’t make yourself better, but you can make decisions to create an environment to invite better.
Surrendering and fighting. Sinking and rising. Allowing utter agony and forcing steps of growth.
See? Two polar opposites, abiding in one body. Grieving well.
Sometimes grief is making a decision to turn off the light, get under the covers and give yourself permission for that day to wipe snot into a bushel of tissues and simply be depressed. Feel the weight. Sit in the ashes.
And sometimes grief is pushing back the covers and washing your face and doing the dishes because it’s something productive you can do. It’s planting flowers because they’re pretty. It’s making cookies for your neighbor. Doing something other than sitting and being depressed.
Sometimes grief is turning down a social invitation because you need alone time. Time to just sit in the silence and be sad.
And sometimes grief is attending that social event when you don’t feel like it, but because you know it’s healthy for you. You know it’s a step towards the land of the living. A taste of vitality to a choking soul.
Grieving well is about balancing two opposites when they’re each needed. And recognizing when one extreme is taking over when it shouldn’t.
How do we know which one to allow or pursue on any given wave of grief? Well, if I had the answer, I’d be wise beyond any human in history. There’s no one-size answer. But you’ll know. You’ll know when you need to succumb. And you’ll know when you need to push.
Here’s the next piece of advice: When you know you need to give in to the wave of grief, don’t feel guilty about giving yourself permission to sink.
And when you know you need to oppose the gravity pull, you need to get yourself some support and accountability. You need to force decisions with your mind and not the emotions.
These two opposites are the way to find balance, and in my opinion, it’s the secret to grieving well.
Big hugs, my friend.