Challenges are blessings depending on one’s perception. They allow us to become wiser and improve who we are. There are specific challenges that take us onto unforeseen roads after we have experienced ‘loss’; a word I will use loosely. Some are fortunate to recover in a short time but there are those of us who take many months and even years to notice substantial changes. Grief is mostly seen as an emotional struggle but like stress, it can become a physical problem. This thing called Grief has an immeasurable magnitude and the power to destroy.
Grief can be felt as an after-effect of many types of losses. Loss of loved ones, relationships, opportunities, hopes, and health. The most subtle loss can cause grief. Although it is an inescapable part of life, it is a unique struggle for everyone due to personality differences, lifestyles, social circles, beliefs and values, and coping skills. Nevertheless, it is a life-changer. Some recover in a few months or less. Some try to ignore and bury it without realizing its presence in their reactions to life. Then, there are those who unintentionally embark on one of the longest personal journeys, and dissolve in it for years; barely identifying themselves and yearning for freedom.
Grief targets every dimension of one’s life. It comprises of many types of emotions; disbelief, denial, regret, confusion, fear, anger, guilt, sadness, more anger, more sadness, and bitterness before stepping into the acceptance zone. When pains recur, we try to stifle them instead of feeling; and so, suppressed emotions continuously resurface from the smallest and most insignificant reminders. Tears come out of nowhere. They flow at unexpected times and lengths, making us question its source which we believe should have dried up. It could be the happiness day in a long time that suddenly changes by a little trigger. Grief robs us of time, energy, relationships, health, and happiness.
This first year of reliving special occasions in a different way seems to be the most difficult. We can hardly see past the overcast skies that follow us day after day. We wish to avoid dealing with emotions. We lose ourselves and place restrictions and timelines for the mess to end. The memories of the scarring incident stay on repeat mode for a long time. In the presence of others, the most difficult hours of grief is when we try to hide the tears that threaten to fall or when we smile and say “I’m okay” because we cannot prevent the tears from falling. Or maybe, we are the type to smile, laugh and pass on our bogus happiness while secretly hiding the pain that is only known to the Man above and the walls that we confine ourselves too. During this phase, grief makes a monster out of us. We look for convenient distractions and allow ourselves to become self-destructive, inevitably hurting others. We further withdraw from things and people as we become numb; and so, this one pain begins to alert the many unresolved issues that have been buried in us.
We are given lots of remarks or advice that don’t work out as expected. People closest to us are reminded of their vulnerabilities when they look at us, making them angry and hurt because we are hurting. There is nothing they can truly do or say to permanently take away our ill feelings because words and love seem inadequate to fill the massive void.
Then, the worst ends and the happier days arrive. Our existence bounces from calm to overwhelming days. We begin to recognize the person in the mirror a little more. The random breakdowns that leave us gasping for breath decreases. Breathing and body functions begin to regulate. At last, resurfacing lasts longer. The same wounds heal over and over because every step forward sends us back to the first step.
Next, emotions attached to our grief slowly begin to fade leaving us less exhausted, less afraid, less fragile, less empty and less angry. During this process, we rebuild ourselves by constantly finding new ways to cope and channel the pain into something valuable. We are able to see definite advancement in controlling our thought patterns and attain a sense of self-understanding. Finally, we can see and feel what healing really is in our mind and body. Good and bad memories that brought tears now gives us smiles and laughter. We find ourselves changed, loving more deeply, being more appreciative and paying more attention to the little things in life and the people who have been riding along.
As it runs its final course, we pinpoint past behaviors and darkness easily in others; a gift that allows us to be more compassionate towards them. You see, this thing called grief and the excruciating pain we experienced assists us to become better and more knowledgeable people. Therefore, we cannot underestimate how easy it is for people to find themselves ready to leap off a building, with a bottle of pills waiting to be gulped or researching the easiest and fastest way to have their last breath. We can never look at homeless people, addicts and those with disabilities and pass on the same judgments that we used too.
Grief is daunting, overwhelming and depressing. This transformative process can be such a long walk that appears never-ending because it must run its course to achieve healing. There is no right way to deal with it or control it, but we can find ways to make life more manageable. We can either win or lose, there is no in-between. For the winners, it is a beautiful devastation. As a result, winners become improved people and more conscious of their capacity and strength. We own a personal story waiting to fall into the ears of those who need to hear it.