Moving on from Loss, through Grief

by Melissa Karnaze

Dandelion blowing in the windA friend of mine lost his father to cancer earlier this month and my heart goes out to him. I cannot imagine what he is going through, having lost a parent.

Last year I experienced the pain of losing someone too. It takes time to grieve, more time than may be expected from someone who has not allowed themselves to fully grieve a loss.

I want to share what I have learned from my own grief this past year, and maybe it will help you or someone you know see that is okay and healthy to grieve.

When we lose someone, through an ended relationship or through their death, we lose a part of ourselves. We lose the part of us that was alive through the relationship—that was alive because of the relationship—and so we must not only grieve for our loved one, but also for ourselves.

Grief is not often openly talked about; grief is not socially acceptable. It’s kept private, for the survivor to bear. In public, the survivor is supposed to “move on.” But moving on is possibly the worst thing you could try to do when you have lost someone. How can you move on from pain if you don’t allow yourself to feel it first?

Grief is a process, not just feelings of denial, anger, depression, and so on. It is a personal transformation from an old life into a new one, from an old identity into a new one—where the person you loved one is no longer physically present.

You must work through the grief in order to make peace with your loss. It may take months, years even, to grieve. No one can tell you when it is time to stop grieving, and no one can tell you how you should be feeling or when you should be able to “move on.” Others may try to speed up the process or try to rationalize what you are feeling so that it is less painful. This is most likely because of their own fear of feeling their own pain, and because of their fears of “losing control” if they acknowledge vulnerability.

When you grieve, you admit to your vulnerability as a person. You admit that you can and have been hurt, that it could happen again, and that you have no control over it. But with this awareness of how vulnerable you truly are, you also realize the true strength within you.

When you allow yourself to fully grieve the loss of someone you love, it is then that you are able to move on as a stronger person than before, because:

    1) You are able to process the magnitude of your loss, and that it cannot be repaired, only healed, through time. This enables you to see what you do and do not have control over in your life, and what you can never take for granted—which puts your new life and relationships into a healthier perspective.
    2) You are able to see what you have not lost, and what you can never lose, which includes your love for the other person and the aspects of the other person that have been integrated into who you are today.
    3) You are able to face your fears of abandonment by living through them and surviving. You are able find some a way to cope in order to keep living—for you.
    4) You are able to sort through any blame, unjustified anger, guilt, or shame you feel surrounding the loss…so that you are not holding yourself accountable for what you are not responsible for. (This is especially important if you have lost someone due to suicide.)
    5) You are able to recognize the invaluable gifts your loved one has imparted upon you, and how you can share those gifts with the world.
    6) You are able to continue learning and growing from your loved one by preserving your memories of their values, beliefs, and special qualities.
    7) You are able to accept your loss, by first fully experiencing and expressing your reactions to it. And then, you are able to find peace in continuing your relationship in a way that is appropriate and right for you. You see that you don’t have to end how you relate to the other person; the relationship may no longer be as reciprocal is it once was, but you can continue expressing your love in many, many ways.

When you lose someone you love, and try to “move on” too soon, you end up hurting yourself because the above transformations don’t have a chance to take place.

It is when you stop trying to move, and let yourself feel the pain in the moment, that you have a chance to move on through grief, into a new life where you can continue loving someone who may no longer be with you physically.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

shamelle-TheEnhanceLife December 11, 2008 at 10:22 pm

Hi,
Thank you for stopping by my blog and for the kind words :-)

You have a very thought provoking blog too!
Sham

Andy January 16, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I agree with so much of what you say here with the following observation. “When” one moves on is up to THEM. No one…not a single person can say when that time is. Some people (like me) have been grieving the loss of a loved one before they die. I grieved for the 1st year after my wife was diagnosed with cancer because I knew that life as we knew it was over…and her shortened life expectancy hit me in the gut so hard I could barely take it.

Now…there is an acceptable time frame for how long I should grieve. At least I feel that way. My grieving will never be over…because she was so important to me…taught me…loved me and my kids…and there was so much to look forward to. I have almost stopped grieving for the things that will never be…but I’ll never not miss her.

Having said that…to the outside world it may look like I haven’t grieved long enough…but to me…I want to move forward and I am. It hurts…but it’s time to move on. We need to remember that when we whisper to our friends about it being too soon to act that way…or why the h*ll doesn’t she get over it and move on.

Thanks for this. Very much!

Melissa Karnaze January 17, 2010 at 11:35 am

Andy, thank you for sharing your story.

Yes, you’re right, it’s up to the person and the person alone to determine how long to grieve, when to grieve, and how to grieve.

It’s so easy to be misunderstood as a person in grief. Observers have no idea what it’s like to be in your shoes. And all you can do is keep doing what’s best for you.

I remember your comment on the “3 Keys to Emotional Serenity” article at Serenity Hacker, and I appreciate your taking the time to stop by here. Your words inspire me, and remind me just how resilient we really are. :)

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