Fort Worth Counseling and Intervention

Why is grief so hard to overcome?

Some things are etched on our hearts. Oftentimes, one of those things is the day when a loved one passed. Though the years go by, and we may think that it is just a normal day, there are always reminders as to who is missing. Grief is difficult. It is not a single process that everyone experiences the same way. This is critical for each of us to remember. Since we do not experience grief in a predictable set of stages, there is no “one size fits all ” way to cope with loss. There is no closure to grief. Grief is not about letting go of past relationships or closing yourself off from them. Even in bereavement, you continue your bond – albeit in a different way.

I had the pleasure to meet with a fellow grief counselor a few weeks ago. She shared something with me that I have not been able to stop thinking about that I would love to share with you. She had a grief support group that she would routinely lead, and a parent one day pulled her aside and said, “ Do you know what the worst thing about grief is? I have all this love and I have nowhere to put it.” We both sat there in the middle of a Panera thinking about both the weight and truth of this statement. It doesn’t matter so much what the relationship is with the person you lose, what matters is that you love them, and that love doesn’t end nor die with them. This love is one that has been deeply ingrained within and we are faced with the challenge when this person is no longer physically with us, how we can continue to have a relationship with them. Just as Jack Lemmon said, “Death ends a life, not a relationship,”

One reason why this is so important is because sometimes, due to the nature around the death or the relationship we have with that individual, we attempt to justify or rationalize what “appropriate grief” should look like. Often, I hear people question why the pain hurts so deeply when a parent dies who has lived a long and meaningful life. The answer is simple. You have invested time where you loved, hoped, dreamed and did life with them. All these accumulate and you are faced with where these thoughts, dreams, habits, and love can go? You may be thinking…they simply aren’t replaceable. This is true, the objective isn’t to replace them, it is to honor them. But how do I do that?

Each person is different. So please first know, there are no two people who grieve alike. If I may give a personal example, I have lost my mom. She is someone I will always love and crave one more day with. When she passed, I didn’t just experience the sting of death physically separating us, but I also lost the fulfillment of the things we wanted to do. The joys of Sonic runs and carpool karaoke. Ultimately, she is someone that I am a better person because. My love for her continues as does her memory. She has a legacy that I seek to honor and cherish. Honoring her legacy is where I choose to pour all the love, I had for her into. This may be something you can do as well. Legacies are ones that are fostered in unique ways. My mom taught me how to spread kindness, and one way she did it was through her amazing homemade chocolate chip cookies. Some weeks I make these cookies in honor of her and give them to someone to bless. It is simply taking the lessons, the gifts these individuals offered, and continuing to pass them on. What did they stand for? What did they love to do? What are some ways you honor legacies of those who have made a difference in you?

If there is any encouragement that I can offer to someone who is mourning, please let it be that you are in the midst of a deep wrestle with love; seeking to find how you can redefine the relationship you had, and continue to love that individual. Listen for their voice. What would they say to your hurts and pains? Do you feel permission to receive their words? If you possibly are faced with the idea that you should be grieving but aren’t, give yourself grace. Maybe it is because you didn’t truly love that individual or are possibly just not ready to grieve. Do not allow the should(s) in life to prevent you from experiencing the blessings before you.

So, this comes back to the question about anniversaries. October 16 th is the day my mom passed away. It takes me less than a second to remember the time she was pronounced. It is a day that I am mindful of, and fully aware that leading up to it, ‘grief bursts’ may catch me off guard. And that is okay! Remember, they are worth the love, and your love for them does not die with them. So, what is helpful when an anniversary occurs? Simply lean into the relationship. Allow yourself to feel and remember. Do something that will engage and honor their legacy. Personally, I am going to pay forward her kindness at Sonic and watch a movie that we would often watch together. It doesn’t have to be complex. Just know, as your relationship has been redefined, the anniversary can be as well. The pain of separation, can birth re-connection.

If this concept of grief as love fascinates you, I encourage you to explore the “Theory of Continuing Bonds.” This theory posits that continuing ties to loved ones is an important aspect of the grief experience. It is both healthy and normal. There are some dangers to this, for instance if that bond is preventing you from living the life you desire, and if that is the case, and you feel stuck, please give me a call. I would be honored to work with you.

Nici Richardson, LPC

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