Why are we so afraid to express our feelings? What prevents us from releasing our pain, our sorrow? Sadly, we live in a society that inhibits us, unless of course we are feeling happy, and have no cares in the world. But even when we are feeling elated, we keep those emotions at bay as well. Are we so afraid of letting others know how we feel, that we forget to feel.
Grief tugs at all those societal taboos that we have learned or experienced. In grief the heeling begins when we start to share our story, when we allow the emotions to run their course. Suppressing them only adds to our pain, and in time, whether we like it or not, they rear their ugly head, forcing us to face them.
In the early days of my grief, I tried to remain strong, keeping it together. At first it wasn't too difficult, after all the shock I was experiencing kept me safely cocooned from the harsh reality. But eventually that too went away, and I was left standing at a precipice trying to decide which way to turn. Where could I hide? What could I do to escape this pain? So many choices, so much to deal with. After weeks of uncertainty and confusion, I began to give in to the emotions that would not relent. Slowly at first, trying to control them, allowing (so I thought) the tears to fall only when no one was looking. It became quite evident early on that this was impossible. My emotions would flood over me, taking all my willpower with them, leaving me in an exhausted heap of tears. To tired to fight, I would succumb to these "bouts" of uncontrollable tears, rage, quilt, and every other emotion that one could think of. I felt like one big jumbled up mess.
But what I did not realize at the time, was that my body was doing what it needed to make sense of my new reality. By allowing myself to release those emotions I was keeping locked up inside me, I was allowing myself to begin to heal. Each new tear that fell, each moment of speaking my thoughts and fears, and every time I allowed my body to succumb to the emotional roller coaster, brought me closer to healing. It was not a continuous healing process, there where many, many days where I felt I was slipping backward, as if everything was beginning a new. It was as if I feared if I "got better" I would forget Rachel, after all she had died, and I had no right to be happy again, to laugh again, to enjoy simple things again.
Yet I did feel moments of happiness, especially when looking at photographs and recalling the times when Rachel had brought so much joy and happiness into my life. At first foreign sounding to my ears, laughter did return, aided by remembering those moments that Rachel would make us all laugh until our sides would hurt. Yes, with these memories tears would flow, but it was the memories, the reminders of a life lived that helped me move in a new direction; a new life without Rachel physically in it. Like the releasing and sharing of my feelings and emotions, the memories too, helped me heal. They helped me to accept the reality that had become my life, helped me to let go of her death and truly grasp onto what her life had meant to me, to my family and to all who had been privileged to know her.
Speaking Rachel's name, and hearing it spoken, was music to my ears. This simple gesture, helped ease my fears that she would be forgotten. Finding individuals that not only allowed me to cry, but allowed me to share her story, my story, helped me make sense of it all. There is a wonderful quote that I came upon just recently that sums up this last statement so well: "A friend who understands your tears is much more valuable than a lot of friends who only know your smile." (Lessons Learned in Life) Grief is not a journey that we must travel alone, finding others who give us the space we need to express ourselves, to cry without trying to stop us, and to simply hold our hands when no words can be spoken, is truly an asset.
Many of us may not have someone whom we feel we can be candid with, or comfortable enough to lay bare our vulnerability, your task is to seek out someone who will. There are so many ways we can find help. There are counselors and grief therapists, support groups and local faith communities that are available. If you cannot find a local group, there are so many online communities that have ongoing forums and chat groups. Speak to your primary care physician, he or she can direct you and help you find what you need. Your local hospitals and hospice agencies may also be a source of information. The important thing to remember here is that we only can begin to heal when we begin to express our emotions, share our story, talk about our loved one, and allow the tears (or what ever emotions that well up) to flow.
There are so many of us who have experienced the death of a loved one, who are willing to listen, or to simply just sit for a while, to be a presence and a beacon of hope. Individuals who serve as proof that this storm will pass, that we will make it through that rocky shore, and find ourselves standing once again in a place of peace and calm. A place where we will embrace the life that our loved one possessed and the gifts that they brought into ours. A place where we have a keen awareness of their presence in our lives, and can feel their love wrapping us in a warm embrace, letting us know that they are still with us. Love has a beautiful way of reminding us that no matter what events take place in our lives, what upheavals may occur, we are gifts to each other. Love conquers all, and it is because of love that we hurt, that we feel, but I would not trade anything in this world for the love I felt and still feel for Rachel and all my deceased loved ones. Nor would any of you trade what you had with your loved one, their loved filled your life and continues to fill it still.
Let love guide you through this time in your life, and allow yourself to express and share your feelings and emotions. Allow yourself to feel.
Blessings! and until we meet again.