“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
If you live long enough, at one point or another, you will experience the death of a loved one. Whether it be another human whom a strong bond was built with or a beloved pet; death touches each of us. Despite this, the topic of death and dying is commonly avoided in our culture. Truthfully though, this topic has brought about some interesting and transforming conversations in my life. As a life skills coach and an occasional host on the Grief Dreams Podcast, I continuously hear from the bereaved about their grief journey after the loss of their loved one. When I hear their stories I wonder how humanity became
so brave and so strong. They have mustered the strength to move forward in life despite some very cruel encounters with death and dying. It is so inspirational to hear what the bereaved have learned (what grief revealed) about themselves and how they have grown through their suffering. I have heard the bereaved talk about growth in many different areas. The bereaved may start valuing those around them more, start to develop new skills, gain a greater realization on how strong they truly are, develop a deeper faith, make changes in what really matters most to them, and it goes on and on.
When one of my closest friends died, my grief revealed many thing….one of which was more valuable than all the rest..
I went through a wide range of emotions when I found out she died. I remember being consumed with a deep sense of emptiness. I felt hurried as though I didn’t have enough time. I noticed my mind racing through the memories I had of her, almost as if I was making sure that I wouldn’t forget any of them. Of course I couldn’t remember all of them at will, which brought me even more despair. I asked myself over and over again, “Why did she have to die?” as I cried for hours in my room. What was going on in me? Where was this deep sorrow stemming from? It really scared me!
Why did I try to remember memories? When I consider what a memory consists of, I am left with the understanding that a memories are closely connected to emotions. In simple terms, the memories of the deceased that I wanted to think about were purely a remembrance of when I felt the most loved by them. I can conclude that I am actually remembering the feeling of being loved and not so much any of the specific details surrounding the memory. Each positive and beautiful memory I have of the deceased loved one is drenched in love and joy. Those memories always bring a smile to my face.
It is my understanding that when I am grieving the loss of her, I am, in a sense feeling love deprivation (hence the remembering memories). Grief, to me, simply highlighted the lack of love I had for myself and how important the deceased was for me to feel loved (and more importantly to love myself). This truth meant that I placed far too much value on others in order to feel loved. When we place such conditions (expectations) upon others, we are often left disappointed and upon their death we are left feeling very distraught.
This realization prompted me to start looking at my life and how I felt about myself. I never wanted to feel this pain again, and that was a great motivator to start making some deep changes to how I saw myself. It took time to work through past emotional trauma and develop a greater sense of worth. I am still working on loving myself each day, but I have noticed a huge difference in how I look at myself in the mirror and the boundaries I set. It is a beautiful thing to see yourself grow! When thinking about love from our deceased loved one. I found that it most certainly helps to focus on the idea that true love doesn’t go anywhere. Although the person may not be able to tightly hold our hand or smile at us with their eyes, the love that was created and maintained between us and them is forever. My personal walk with grief and loss has opened up some really amazing parts of myself to the world. If you haven’t realized it yet, it is important for us to rise to the challenge of seeing ourselves in the way our deceased loved ones saw us. If we can do that, they are the ones truly emanating from
our hearts to everyone we meet.