It is never easy when anniversaries come around. Or birthdays. Or Mother’s/Father’s Day. These days, we feel, can only serve as painful reminders of the things and the people we have lost; the good times or the futures stolen from us. Birthdays especially, for once they were happy times, now reduced to remembering that there will be no more celebrations, only memories of what once was, and, for the one who is lost, to never grow a day older from the moment they passed beyond the Veil. For they, once gone, shall never grow old and never more suffer the maladies and ravages of time and old age any longer. For them, time has stopped. For us, the ones left behind, the steady march of time beats on like a melancholic heartbeat in the darkness.
Grief is a paradox. It both leaves you with a feeling of emptiness and filled with so many things – anger, despair, denial, resentment. It can veer from one extreme to the other. It can be confusing and numbing at the same time. Not knowing how to deal with it, who to turn to, where to go, what to say. There are many suggestions about how to deal with grief and loss, not necessarily with death, but also other kinds of loss which can leave one with a feeling of “….maybe I should be feeling like this at this stage, or that stage. Maybe I should be over it by now. Do I have to go through the stages of grief in a particular order…?”
The answer to this is no. We think of grief as something that has to be controlled, managed and harnessed. Yes, to some degree we must manage our pain, but what many do not understand is that grief and all the feelings of loss are all part of the human experience and so MUST be treated as such, and not crafted into some form that fits neatly into a category or list. Grief simply does not work that way. We go through life never knowing grief and then suddenly we do. There is a life before and a life after grief. It becomes part of our make-up, our being. It becomes integrated into ourselves so that reality itself turns inside out so that there are now two worlds – the reality before the experience, and the one after. Things can never be the same again. At this time, and for some time after, we must learn to integrate this new feeling into out psyche and make it part of us. It will never leave us and it is for that reason we must learn to nurture it and find a place for it within ourselves.
It will always resurface and that is why we need to befriend it. Understand it. Learn that we feel grief because it is the highest expression of love. We grieve deeply because we have loved deeply. Even if we have had fractious or broken relationships with those we loved, it does not matter. Love is as complicated as grief and to try and pick it apart and make sense of it is a fruitless and demoralising task. Grief, like love, is what it is. There are things we are not meant to understand and the feelings and expressions of the heart, like love, grief, compassion and mercy are some of those things. We cannot explain them even though we try our best to. But they are sometimes way beyond our understanding.
Grief, like love, can be expressed by the heart in a thousand silent ways.
Grief can also be subject to social norms. A female may be frowned upon for seeking out love after the loss of her mate soon after his passing. Why is this? Is there a time limit on grief? I think not. We must get past this notion of time when it is relation to others’ feelings and emotions, and pre-conceived ideas of what it means to grieve. Some may grieve for a short time and process the loss quickly. Some may grieve the loss of their loved one for the rest of their earthly days. We cannot know the hearts of others. It is impossible, and wrong, to judge others on how and when they process their grief and loss. We must set our own houses in order first before turning our attentions to the dwellings of others.
And so, what happens if you feel you can move on? What then? How do you feel? More to the point, how do OTHERS make you feel? Guilty? Pressured? Ashamed? Are they projecting their own morals, ideals and virtues onto you out of some feeling of lack or want within themselves? Ask yourself – how do YOU feel about it? Your loved one is in another reality. They are not here to advise you, or admonish your for your choices. They cannot direct your life now in any way, so be wary of those who say “Your mother/father would want this/that, be so disappointed if you….” That is emotional manipulation, and control. They are not here. You are. Be mindful of that. We only have a short time here. Use this time wisely.
In the end, it is perfectly acceptable to move on with life. There is no shame in that. You do not forget those who have gone before you as they will always be a part of you – they may have shaped your life in some way, made you the person you are for good or ill. In some small way, they will always be a part of you, a part of your being. Holding a space in your heart for them does not mean you forget them. You may not think of them every day and, the first day you forget to think of them you might feel guilty. This is natural. It is a natural process of letting go. But letting go does not mean forgetting. Holding a place in your heart means you NEVER forget, you just store that memory and love away like a treasured album full of pictures and stories to be picked up and examined at a time of your choosing. It is a conscious choice to remember, not a forced one out of guilt, duty, obligation or external pressure. And with that, the memories become sweeter, if they were good, or have less of an impact if they were not. Holding that space is neutral. And it is good for you in the long-term because it allows room for that process to run its course and settle where it is supposed to without the pressure of social norms or other people telling you what should and shouldn’t be. Let it rest in peace in your heart and soul.