After we have dealt with grief for a period of time, we will reach a point where it feels like we are turning away from our loved one and moving on. We probably are, even though we don’t want to.
We will have changed some aspects of our life. Maybe we have given most of their possessions away and reset our home. Perhaps we’ve been taking care of a child or elderly parent and now have empty hours each day when we don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s been 10, 20, or 30 years since we lived by ourselves, and we’re learning who we are as a single person.
There is a natural evolution to grief because grief is a natural part of life.
What we discover, when someone we love dies, is that even though our first choice in life has been taken away, a second choice exists, as well as a third, and even a fourth. The future is not set, as we’ve learned, nor are our options.
Abraham Maslow said that throughout our life we either step forward into growth, or we step back into safety. For those who grieve, we’ve lost so much that we fear taking any risk and losing what little we have left. For the first months, many of us choose to step to the side, dwell in a neutral space, and let the world pass by. We do need to hunker down for a while, gather our resources, and wait for the storm to pass.
There comes a time when we need to step back in and take chances again. Our friends have been waiting for us to come out of our cocoon and smile, dance, and play again, if only a little.
I wanted this, too, but it took time before I was ready to think about my options and make the transition from what had been to what might be. I needed to deal with the changes patiently, with kindness for myself and with curiosity about the world.
Grief is a chrysalis. So is love. But sometimes the process of becoming moves way too slow.
There is a story about Zorba being impatient to see the emergence of a butterfly. He warms the cocoon with his breath to hurry the process along, and the butterfly emerges, but it’s too soon in its formation and it dies. Zorba wanted to see its beauty now. He wanted to celebrate life now, not put it off. He goes through life like this, wanting to drink wine if it’s around, and love the women who want to be loved.
We want to be happy again without always seeing death in the background. We want to take risks without expecting the worst. We want our friends who have lost children, parents, or siblings to laugh again without memories roaring up and pulling them down into a funk. What we are discovering is that we will always be aware of how fragile life is, and that there is enough joy to hold the shadows at bay.
The reality is that we don’t move on from those who died. They move on with us.
This post has appeared in The Grief Dialogues.