On Making Space for Grief

Dear quarter lives, 

Can you recall the first time you ever experienced loss? Can you recall the first time you expressed your grief? Was your grief met with open arms or were you told to put it away? What about your most recent experience of loss, can you recall it? How did you meet your grief then? Were your arms open? Were you even there in your body to meet it? They say we learn how to meet our own grief by seeing how our grief was first met by another.

I recently learnt that grief has many ways of making itself visible. It has more colours than a rainbow. It has more shades than blue. It sounds like everything between laughter and wailing. It feels like everything from a punch in the stomach that steals your breath away to feeling ecstatic like you’ve only just come alive. Despite the many guises grief wears, you can be certain that it is bound to show up on your doorstep at some point. And if you are unable to meet it, it will stay there and camp out on your yard until you do. And grief isn’t too bothered about time like we might be, it will stay and make itself at home sometimes for decades. But the danger when it stays for this long is that it really does begin to make itself at home, taking away from our own space that would’ve otherwise been dedicated to something else. It will use your energy until you barely have any left for anything other than grief. And that is usually when most of us finally give in and meet our grief. But why wait till then? Why put it off for so long? Yes, obviously it can be painful and uncomfortable, but what I’m asking is what makes it so? Why is it so hard for us to accept our grief, to acknowledge it, and recognise it? 

When I’ve contemplated my own resistance to grieving, I’ve found that I resist grieving when I’m not ready to accept the loss, when I’m not ready to accept the finality of it. And if I allow myself to grieve, to go through the process of accepting the loss, I would in fact be recognising that it’s okay for my life to go on without this thing, that it’s okay for me to be this way, that this new normal is okay. And that, I think is the hardest part for most of us because it does feel like if we allow ourselves to grieve, that somehow we would be agreeing with how things have turned out. We might mistake accepting for agreeing, thinking if we do one, we are doing the other, but I do believe they are different. Perhaps it is a very subtle difference. But isn’t the art of living after all about mastering the subtleties. This mixing up of agreement and acceptance often happens when we are dealing with others too. Many of us might resist accepting someone else’s view if it’s different than their own, thinking that in accepting another we are agreeing with them. But that isn’t the case at all. Acceptance is merely the act of seeing something for what it is, not what we’d like it to be, or what it ought to be. Acceptance is therefore not dependent on anyone’s moral, cultural or religious beliefs. Acceptance is dependent solely on our humanity and willingness to open our eyes to the truth. Yes, sometimes the truth can be painful. Sometimes the truth might not be to our liking. And sometimes the truth itself is temporary making it very difficult for us to capture it and box it up in a single space and time. 

Acceptance does not happen all at once, and neither does grief. We grieve and accept in layers. In layers of ourselves. In layers of time. Even in layers of people. Until we finally reach the core of what we need to grieve and accept — and that is Life herself. The Life that we were born into, the Life that separated us from our mother’s womb, the Life that is full of danger and disappointments, the Life that we had hoped Life to be but isn’t, and so we grieve and grieve until we can finally accept the Life that is, the Life that is actually here, actually happening. We grieve until we can open our eyes again and take in reality. We grieve until we are ready to take in the truth. And as long as we keep on living, we never stop grieving, because we never stop opening our eyes to new truths. 

And when we can finally accept our lifelong relationship with grief, we can then begin to turn our attention and energy into how we can make space for grief and embrace it, instead of pushing it away. How can we grieve in community without it being just about the darkness? Because grief only gets darker when it is  shunned, but when we make space for it, we offer grief a chance to take a lighter form. So how can we celebrate grief? How can we create rituals that mark its flow through us? How can we dance grief away? Can we sit in circles and share stories of grief and loss? Can we share food and drink, and music too? For the sake of our humanity, for the sake of all children now struggling to make sense of all the deaths happening around them, we need to make space for grief so we can make peace with it.

With love and always with the intention to bring a little more harmony into your lives, 

S.A. 

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