People grieve the way they wished to be grieved.
At least in my experience.
We hold on to the pain for as long as we can because we think that letting go of the pain means letting go of the person—we’re afraid that it means the worst part of grief and one of many people’s greatest fears: to be forgotten.
If we stop crying and dwelling on past memories, we are afraid that it will mean that we don’t love the person anymore. We think our pain keeps us close to the person.
The longer we think we maintain a connection with the person (regardless of how it twists our insides), the more we feel we have never lost that other person. We believe that life can coast along that like. But, it’s false a connection. We cling to the pain because we would want someone else to do that for us.
We grieve the way we wish to be grieved.
What we often don’t realize is that the world is not colder without that other person in it; it just feels different. It’s about getting familiarized with a new perspective. The world is the same as it always was and will be.
But, grief isn’t necessarily rational, and it’s all about adjusting and getting reacquainted with yourself. Grief has a way of reintroducing you to yourself, perhaps because you are, in a sense, mourning yourself whenever you mourn someone else.
I don’t want to oversimplify it, though. I do miss my brother. I miss my grandparents. I miss the friends who I have lost. I just think there is an element of the self in, at least, the internal feelings that we recognize as grief.
The famous saying tells us that “time heals all wounds.” I believe it can. We hate that idea, but the truth of it can’t be denied. In time, the wound will heal. But, that doesn’t mean that you won’t still have a scar.
The pain of a car accident does not always stay as sharp and severe as that initial impact. Eventually, the pain fades as our body begins to heal. We may walk with a limp from that day forward (as we often do after the loss of someone important), but we still keep walking. We probably don’t think about the accident everyday that we limp. It’s simply part of us. It is the same with psychological and emotional wounds. The thing to remember is that it’s okay to limp and it’s okay to get up out of bed and start walking.
Moving on can have a negative connotation, but that’s not always earned.
Moving on means accepting yourself and letting yourself off the hook.
It means acknowledging that you are individual.
It means understanding that letting pain heal is not about loving the person you’ve lost any less or somehow making the past something it wasn’t.
The cliché tells us that life is short. In my experience, it surely is. Of course, I want to think that I am important to other people. I want to mourn everyone the way I feel someone significant ought to be mourned.
The truth is, though, that pain and tears aren’t the only ways to keep someone who has died close to you.
When my brother died, it jarred my entire sense of the world. We were not close at the time of his death. I never regretted that per se. I know that if he was alive today, we might not be any closer. But, when he died, something inside of me clicked.
I suddenly signed up for college. I suddenly had a stronger sense of purpose. I wanted to accomplish things with my life and my opportunities. I never would’ve thought I would one day teach college. Never. When I sat in that chilly back office in the car parts store where I worked for seven years sorting invoices and counting money, I never would’ve thought I had the strength to quit and let myself go where this journey called life would take me.
If my brother was alive, I don’t know that I ever would’ve gone to college...
In the end, grief can strengthen you in ways you never would’ve realized or thought possible. That, too, is how we honor our past and the experiences that make us who we are.
We become empowered and start walking...
We move on.