Grief is so much more than death loss.
So often when I’m introducing myself to others as the Grief Freak they often think that I’m a death doula. They tell me about the death of their mom, their friend, their pet, etc. And I listen, I hear them and their stories of death loss, but loss is so much more than that.
I want to be clear here – I don’t want to discount death loss by any means. Death loss certainly equals grief. But sometimes I want to get on my soapbox with my megaphone and educate others about all the other kinds of losses. Perhaps I feel a need to do this simply because my own loss isn’t a death loss yet it’s a palpable loss that I deal with everyday.
In the early days of my grief I felt so out of place, and not just because my world was turned upside down because of my sudden loss. There was this awareness that the world just continued on as usual while my life was in an awful place and nothing made sense anymore. How could the sun rise and crickets sing when I’d just lost my partner, and all our dreams and future plans to the world of quadriplegia?!!
For those of you who are new to me here…in 2012, my beloved partner Michael crashed on his mountain bike, broke his neck and severed his spinal cord. The result was quadriplegia or paralysis from the chest down.
So, my partner and I have so many losses and our grief is immense. It wasn’t a death loss yet so much “died” on that fateful day.
I had a hard time finding my place, perhaps this is another reason why I call myself the Grief Freak – I felt like a freak even in the world of grief. The books I read and most of the groups I attended all focused on death loss. So, in my mind I would say to myself… “and other losses or life transitions.” In my upside world of grief, I had an obsession to belong.
I so wanted to fully belong to the “grief club,” yet because my loss wasn’t a death loss, I really didn’t belong there. I still feel that sometimes, that I don’t quite fit in.
And how silly is that! My beloved grief mentor and friend, Sobonfu, would talk about how Westerners have a tendency compare grief. So she would simply say, “Grief is grief.” Which to me means- “Broken is broken.” Once you have lost whatever it is that you loved, your heart is hurting, period.
Although, I get it. We live in a culture that associates grief with death. And this culture is very freaky about grief. Grief is such a confusing complicated process.
But really it’s very simple and the main message here today is this – we grieve for that which we loved. Or as Francis Weller puts it, “Everything we love, we will lose.”
And because there is so much we have loved, there is so much grieving to do. Here’s a simple list of love that could be or will eventually be lost. Feel free to add your own loves and losses to this list:
A healthy able body and all it does for you-being able to run, walk, dance, sing, have sex, even poop and pick your nose.
Youth – your vitality and ease of being young.
Your senses: healthy eyes, ears, being able to taste and smell, having the ability to give and receive touch.
Memories and your mental state of mind; one’s mental health.
Wealth and healthy finances; the ability to make money; keep a steady job, etc.
Physical health- suddenly receiving a diagnosis of a terminal illness or the slow awful process of having a chronic illness.
Having a pain free body – having to deal with chronic pain.
The ability to travel.
Having a comfortable home, or even an uncomfortable one.
Having belongings that delight you or having the bare minimum.
A sense of safety in the world.
The possibility of future generations because of the state of the planet.
Innocence taken away because of abuse, neglect or just not having your needs met.
Clean air and water, etc.
The Wilderness (Earth Grief).
The ability to have children.
Lost children – to addiction, abduction, or simply because they don’t like you and want nothing to do with you.
Family – to conflict, estrangement, and/or unhealthy dynamics, or simply the family you wanted to have but didn’t get.
Relationships – to divorce, separation, abduction, or a traumatic brain injury or change in one’s mental health.
Faith or belief.
Dreams for the future.
The expected stages of life.
Even positive changes can bring on grief – graduation, marriage, having a child, etc.
I could go on and on.
Do you see that anything we love, anything that we are attached to, we will eventually lose?
I recently heard someone use the phrase – the only thing constant is change. So really we could say: the only thing that is constant is grief. Because life is a series of constant changes, there is always something to grieve. So we must start to grieve well so that we can live well.
So, with a heavy heart-full of both love and grief, I leave you with these reminders:
Remember to keep your grief moving.
Check in with your grief everyday. I think of Sobonfu and her question- “Have you grieved enough?” After creating this list, that question is more poignant.
Find your grief peeps and tell each other your sorrows and your joys and then share a meal together.
Don’t have access to your grief peeps? Go find a special tree, rock or body of water and tell them.
Simply feel your grief, stop resisting it.
Give your grief time and space.
Need help grieving well? Reach out to me, I’m happy to help. Helping others grieve well is the Grief Freak’s passion after all.