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Grief Is A Lot Like Love

April 29, 2021 by Heather McCartney-Duty

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert reflected, “Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted. It comes and goes on its own schedule. Grief does not obey your plans or wishes…In that way, Grief has a lot in common with Love.”

We are entering our first year of recovery in a pandemic. The damages may take decades to heal… lost jobs, health, loved ones, and relationships. We want the recovery to be instant, to retrieve all that has been taken, given up, or somehow misplaced along the way. Some things and some people, however, are gone forever.

We are changed by this time in our lives, and we must now weave a tapestry, a story forward that serves us as individuals in our communities and society. If we sit in quiet contemplation, life has a few things she’s trying to reveal.

But grief comes first. It may look like:

  • extreme fatigue
  • irritability
  • shortness of tolerance
  • incredibly long sad days
  • anger
  • despair
  • migraines
  • anxious thoughts
  • too much sleep, not enough sleep
  • denial
  • numbness … nothing at all.

We live in a time where we can say, “I’m not well” and “It’s gonna take some time to heal”. In The Courage to Grieve by Judy Tatelbaum, there is some sage advice about how to nurture the grieving process so that we can heal in our own time and pace. We can show compassion and love to ourselves but also to those around us:

  • Take time alone and time with those you trust, who will listen and not try to ‘fix’
  • Rest, relax, exercise, nourish, and enjoy diversion.
  • Allow yourself to receive the care and hope of others. We are not the first generation to experience hardship, and we will not be the last. Take heart that others have not only survived trauma, but also found ways to heal and continue. Even thrive.
  • Set goals. It may sound daunting, given how many times we had to call off work, have work cancel on us, sickness lay us out (and sometimes persist), events gone and then return. Start small, perhaps with self-care goals: “I’m going on a walk for 10 minutes and then have coffee with a friend.”
  • Give yourself permission to enjoy small pleasures. They still exist. Enjoy them.
  • Know that you will not be your best self some days because the body, mind, and soul cannot absorb and process all the pain at once. Also know these awful periods will pass.
  • And finally, limit substance use. Alcohol and drug use is on a sharp incline. We know that these fixes are temporary, and the damage can be negatively life-altering. We also know our children are watching us, taking in the messages of how to handle difficulties. What can you do instead of escape at this moment? Call a friend, express frustration, cry, look up a mental health professional? Grief hurts. As the popular children’s book reminds us, “can’t go around it, can’t go over it, can’t go under it, gotta go through it!”

Reach out. Help is near.