If you were given the choice between diving freely into the darkest depths of the ocean fully equipped with all of the proper gear you would need to handle anything you might encounter OR being slowly dragged down by an eighty pound anchor that is chained to your legs while you frantically tread water trying to keep your head above water, which would you choose?
Well when it’s put that way, I’d have to choose freely diving into the depths. Grief is a lot like plunging into the depths of a dark unknown ocean. When we are thrown into grief, we fear that once we descend into the darkness, we will never be able to come back, so we choose to frantically tread water lugging an eighty-pound anchor that slowly drags our exhausted selves to the very place we are trying to avoid. How ridiculous is that?
Last year, I had a very important friendship end. I dove right into the darkness of my grief and balled my eyes out! I was pathetic. I cried in front of everyone I encountered and even cried during a presentation I gave about, of all things, sharing and being open about one’s grief. I literally was a sobbing mess for eight days. As I look back, I realize it took a lot of courage to allow myself to express how I was feeling. I was open and honest about my feelings and shared my sadness with an open heart. Then a funny thing happened. The crying stopped and I felt light and free.
If I had chosen to pretend that I was fine or tried to repress my grief, treading water with that anchor chained to my legs in an attempt to keep my head above water, I would have been dragged down into the darkness anyway. My heart and soul would have been battered and exhausted. I am certain that I would still be sad had I tried to fight my grief. But I chose to dive into the depths of my grief, trusting that I had the gear I needed to face everything I needed to face. Including taking responsibility for my part in creating the circumstances that ended the friendship and understanding that I wasn’t a victim. As a result, I became stronger and was light enough to resurface quickly. It was a very empowering experience.
I am using a minor loss in order to give you a simple illustration. I know that major losses are complex and more difficult to face, but the same principle applies. In July of 2004, my brother died, five months later, my infant daughter died as well. It was as if my soul knew that the two losses combined were more than I could handle so I didn’t face it and put the grief for my brother on hold. It took a great deal of energy just to get through the day and I felt very heavy and tired all the time.
On the third year anniversary, it hit me. My brother was gone. That is when I started to really process my grief. I dove in by writing, reading and sharing about my loss. It’s been six years and I have just begun to resurface. My energy started returning just this week! I am sure people thought, “honestly, it’s been years, shouldn’t she be over it by now?” I can’t help but wonder if I hadn’t put my sadness about my brother on hold and given myself the time to grieve, would I have begun to resurface sooner? My guess is yes. Having processed my grief doesn’t mean I won’t ever miss my brother, my baby and even my friend but as long as I allow myself to feel my sadness and let it come up and out, I will continue to be empowered.
Don’t be afraid to dive into your grief. Get the tools and support you need to work through your sadness and you can avoid spending a lifetime fighting to get to the light living in darkness. If you want support or would like to learn more about the tools needed to empower yourself by processing your grief, feel free to contact me by email or phone.
Gabrielle Michel was an interfaith minister, when her life changed in 2004: February brought the miscarriage of her first baby; July, the death of her younger brother. October, her dear friend died. On December 22nd, she joyfully welcomed her daughter into the world, only to say goodbye to her the next morning when death claimed her as well.
Now a Spiritual Grief Recovery Specialist and Founder/Executive Director of Graceful Grieving, Inc., Though the subject of infant/pregnancy loss is dark and painful, her resilient spirit, disarming sense of humor and accessible demeanor make her a compelling speaker engaging and inspiring grievers.