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The Many Faces of Grief

Grief has many forms and takes on many faces. I sat with Change a long time before she told me her real name was Grief. I sat with her friends Anger and Loss for a long time too. It turns out, their names are Grief.

Then COVID, Civil Rights, and Economics joined the posse with Fear, Disappointment and Confusion in tow. Guilt planted herself on my couch. She asked for the remote and suggested I, “Snap out of it and get to the projects and chores COVID has now given me time to do.” I gave her the finger and showed her the door. Economics asked me to spar with her in the ring; however, I was so darned scared of a total knock-out, I just laid down and played dead.

These, and several others, are the forms and faces of Grief. Grief is not solely reserved for the death of a loved one. I have been “losing” my relationship with Mom for over a decade now.

Every day I watch her essence disappear like water on a hot rock. Mom is dying from Alzheimer’s.

Whether we are Grieving over someone’s death or changes in circumstance, most are emotions and forms of Grief.

One characteristic of being human is we do not like to feel uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to feel uncomfortable, and Grief is uncomfortable. If I ignore Grief and all her friends, they only return unexpectedly another time. Then, they stay longer, are more problematic, they clean out my fridge and liquor cabinet and make me sick.

We are also conditioned to believe Grief has a time limit, or that all Grief goes away with time. This has yet to happen caring for my Mother with Alzheimer’s. My Grief shifts daily due to Change, Loss, and a boatload of Fear, Anxiety, and Confusion.

Therefore, I have learned over time to make room for Grief when it does come. The following is what helps me:

1) I identify Grief has arrived and will come in unpredictable waves for as long as it stays.

2) I know Grief plays out differently for everyone. I know we all have a right to our feelings. Processing Grief takes as long as it takes. I try not to compare my process with someone else’s.

3) If needed, I ask for help. I talk to a close friend, a professional, or God. This is not a religious article, but I do know the Universe is benevolent. It will help you if you ask.

4) I offer Grief anything it wants, Kleenex, tears, time, etc.

5) When I find my mind is going around and around on the hamster wheel, or my heart is so hurt I cannot breathe, I get off the wheel and take a few conscious breaths. Breathing and quieting yourself is a practice, and it gives your mind and body a break. Even if that break is 10 seconds, you are breaking the rhythm of a state of mind that will not help you heal.

6) Lastly, I look for one thing I would have otherwise missed had I not stopped to breathe. Is it a cloud formation? A budding flower through a crack in the concrete? A classic car? Did it just rain? How does it smell? Stop and take a moment for the things in your life that are good. Are you grateful you can even breathe? Are you grateful for your family, your pets, or your friends?

When we make room for our Grief, Courage can then take our hand to help us move forward. Our hearts can remain soft and pliable. Acceptance and Grace can now help us laugh again, find optimism, and even contentment.

Remember, this is a practice. We can co-exist with Grief when we must and when we honor Grief, we evolve into a stronger, wiser human being, living a more whole-hearted life.

We can quiet down. We can simplify our lives without the world falling off its axis. We can be kind, responsible, and accountable. We can let others be. We can trust the benevolence of this world.

And all the above can be found simply by making room for Grief.

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