November is one of my favorite months of the year, as it ushers in a season of reflection; most needed moments to pause and count our blessings during Thanksgiving before the frenzy of the Christmas season. It always seems to be a month filled with nostalgia for me. As I watch the leaves fall from the trees, I tend to slow down a bit more and think about the fact that those leaves were once the source of nourishment for the trees from whom they fall.
As I write this post about grief, my mind drifts off to how much loss we as humans have had to deal with in 2020. I am not sure what losses you have suffered this year or where you are in your grief journey but allow me to share a few thoughts that might accompany you on that journey.
- Grief is a reflection of how deeply we love. One of the most intense moments of grief that I have personally felt was the loss of my mother. The fact that we had spoken on the phone the day before and she was okay, as well as the fact that she died in her sleep, made the loss almost unbearable. As the shock wore off and I cried uncontrollably, a friend said “wouldn’t it be sad if it did not hurt this much”. Not really what I wanted to hear at the time but it gave me comfort; for what I heard in that statement was that I loved my mother so much that losing her was tearing me apart. Think about it for a moment and you might realize that the things you grieve over, the people whose loss breaks your hearts are the things and the people that you loved deeply.
- Grieving does not last forever. One of the ways that grief takes a toll on mental well being is the feeling that the heaviness associated with the grief will never end. As the wise King Solomon talks about the times and seasons of life in Ecclesiastes 3, he mentions two seasons that are linked to grieving – “a time to weep and a time to laugh … a time to mourn and a time to dance”. The thing to note in these verses is that one season gives rise to another. Just as seasons where trees shed their leaves lead to seasons when new leaves appear on the same bare trees of winter, so seasons of deep grief will one day lose their heaviness and despair and the sun will shine again and bring moments of relief. One day, the memories that bring tears to our eyes will cause us to smile with thankfulness.
- Grieving cannot be done in a hurry. As a counselor, I often walk clients who are dealing with loss and grieve through the 5 stages of grief and these are Denial – (I don’t believe they are really gone); Anger – (I’m so angry that they are gone)Bargaining – (I promise I’ll change if they come back)Depression – (I feel hopeless about my future without them) and Acceptance – (I can go on with my life and deal with their absence). One of the things that I stress as we go through this process is that these stages are not linear and that one can stay in some stages longer than others or even skip some stages. It is also important to stress that there is no set time- frame for these stages and that everyone goes through them at their own pace.
As this year draws near to an end, it is okay to focus on the ways that we have had to grieve, not only the loss of loved ones but maybe the loss of good health, the loss of jobs, or even the loss of the peace of mind that comes with certainty. It is important to allow ourselves to grief, for it is in sitting with the grief that we can slowly embrace it, normalize it, and realize that grieving is part of the human experience.