Experiencing a significant loss can be considered one of the most difficult and painful experiences in our lives. There are many factors that play into a loss experience and how severely it affects us. No two losses are the same, however, there are some common experiences that many may identify with.
The Grief Experience
At the beginning of our grief journey the range of emotions we may feel can be likened to a snow globe that has been turned upside down. There is no consistency, no single emotion to be felt at a steady pace. It can feel like it’s coming at us fast and full with no idea of the path it will take. Grief, we begin to learn, is unpredictable.
One day though the path begins to slow somewhat. It starts to feel different, with repetition we begin to adjust to this new life post loss. That does not mean however that it is without pain, it just becomes a new version of “normal.”
As we move through this process, we begin to learn along the way our grief triggers. They may become a little more noticeable and predictable. We may begin to accept our grief. No, that does not mean that we are “OK” with our grief or are absent of pain, but we lean into the grief. As if it were a wave we see coming towards the shore. Instead of running from the powerful wave, we stand there bracing for the crash that we inevitably know is coming.
Grief Changes Us
Throughout this journey we may notice our identity is shifting, and our perspective on the world has expanded maybe. How we connect to others feels different as well. It is in this process that we might say that there are unexpected gifts that come from grieving. We’ve been changed in ways that we never could have known. We cannot predict our grief experiences or how we will respond to it until we are in it.
Leaning into the Change
Grief can push change onto us and that can be hard to accept. Acceptance with our grief means that instead of trying to fight grief from changing us, we lean into acknowledging the fact that grief does change us and we cannot escape it. Instead of focusing on controlling our experience to not let it impact our lives, we let go of the control and can experience calmness by accepting that we will be shaped by this life changing event.
Deeper Understanding of Others
Grief can give us the ability to be more compassionate towards others. When you’ve experienced a significant loss, you learn first-hand the depth of grief’s impact. This opens up our perspective of the world and others, to look deeper than what is right in front of us. Think about how many people we pass by every day, and we have no idea what they’ve been dealing with in their lives. For example, someone in the office you’ve noticed is struggling with their job duties. Others can become easily frustrated, checking in with them you might find out they’ve recently had a loss. With life experience, we can relate to their absent mindedness. This is the gift grief can give us, to be more understanding of others, because we realize there can be something much deeper than what we see on the surface in our daily interactions.
Connection with Others
When we experience a significant loss, we may feel disconnected from others. This feeling may pop up many times on our journey. When we come to a point where we are open to support, we might find that connecting with others can feel very different from prior to our loss. We can find connection with others on a deeper level because of our life experience. There is a saying that many deep friendships begin when we can look to another person and say “oh really, you too?”
Letting Ourselves Be Changed
When we experience a loss, we are undoubtedly faced with what has been taken from us and what has been put on us. On our unpredictable journey when we begin to experience glimmers of healing, there can also be the realization of what grief has given us and how we have been forever changed by it. When we allow grief to change us, our loved ones can continue to make a difference in the world through us, long after they are gone.