First of all, let me say that this “grief space” is going to look different for everyone. We all know there is no one-size-fits-all way to approach grieving (though it would be so nice if there was!), and so this process is something that will require you to consider ways that you process and incorporate change.
We’ve all seen examples of unresolved grief on television – just watch any episode of Hoarders or Kitchen Nightmares. The horrific scenarios in these shows are often the result of a traumatic event or death in the person’s past. Often, the loss was never dealt with and now their life is spiraling out of control. And it makes sense; if we don’t face reality, even a painful one, we won’t live or function in sync with reality.
We live in a society that can admire people for “going back to work” after a death. We explain it by saying, “Oh, they need to work to keep themselves busy”. While there is some room for that behavior as a way to cope, what it seems we are really saying is, “it’s ok to actively avoid grief.”
Claim Your Grief Space
Like a little kid, we don’t want the fun to end, even when a nap is exactly what we need. To admit we are tired or in a reality of grief is hard and sometimes denial seems like it could work. It doesn’t (see crying child reference above).
Denial will never, ever work. In fact, it will actually compound and enhance your grief.
Additionally, avoiding grief can often invite in unneeded guilt. People can feel like they aren’t “doing” enough or “feeling” anything and conclude something is wrong with them. When we set time aside we are DOING something and opening ourselves up to possibly FEELING our sorrow. There’s no wrong way to do this other than, arguably, not doing it.
Do you grieve organically or should you plan it out?
We are so addicted to the drug of being “busy” that we neglect the idea of pausing or making space for life to happen to us.
If you sense that you are needing some space to grieve or process something unresolved, you need to give this to yourself. Your responsibilities/job/life may not allow for time away to do this, so you’ll need to sense or plan when you need time to grieve. I know it sounds strange to “schedule” grief, but I think that it can be a very helpful way to think about and treat grief. In the beginning, grief may be uncontrollable or show up at precisely the most unexpected time. So, we get busy to avoid these outbursts and that is so understandable.
- Take one weekend a month where you stay home and practice self-care by getting a massage, taking a favorite walk, or taking a long nap (or two!).
- Plan an afternoon each week where you remember your loved one by making a favorite meal or watching a movie you enjoyed together.
- Write a letter to your loved one for just 10 minutes a day. Setting an alarm is helpful as it keeps you from feeling you need to keep writing. The truth is you’ll be right back tomorrow to say more.
Many people experience grief organically and intuitively know when to take an afternoon off. If you know you’ll be avoidant of your grief, waiting isn’t a good option. Planning ahead for yourself can be very healing and helpful.
My hope is that you would feel empowered to claim space for your grief. And that by intentionally working through your new reality, you would be able to engage more fully and beautifully with the life you are living.