I want to talk about RECOVERING from grief because it’s still a common misconception that recovery isn’t possible. I mean, if we look at so many movies and TV shows, people either seem to magically move on (no work required) and live happily ever after or exist in some kind of eternal pit of despair they never find their way out of.
Well, this is one instance where reality beats fantasy (!!) because when we learn to integrate our losses and find meaning in the aftermath we can move forward and take the love and connection of the person who we lost with us. It’s not quite happily ever after but it’s so much better than allowing our life to be defined by pain.
What does it mean to integrate our losses?
First, you have to know we’re integrating all the time in our lives – we’re built knowing how to do this. Think about the last time you learned something new and applied it to your life. You’ve integrated that knowledge and allowed it to shape your thoughts and behaviours. And because we know how to do this it’s possible for ALL of us to integrate our losses.
Integration is all about inclusion. We don’t wall off or avoid the pieces that hurt but welcome them into the light. We meet them with compassion in our heartspace. We complete the pain so we can move forward.
Our losses change us. Integration isn’t about trying to go back in time to the person we were before the loss but about embracing who we are now – a human who has experienced grief and pain and lived to tell the tale.
Integration is remembering our wholeness. That while we might feel broken that brokenness doesn’t define who we ARE. You’re still a whole human being here to experience ALL of life – even loss.
Integration asks us to look through the lens of love and embrace all parts of ourselves. To see how the pain and beauty dance together like light and shadow. Because you can’t see the stars without the darkness of the night sky. And remember that healing the pain allows us to see the truth of who we are more clearly.
Integration sounds wonderful Tammy … but how?!
If grief is a non-linear process then healing is too, but I think if there’s a first step it would be grieving the emptiness.
Loss shifts the patterns and habits in our lives. It changes our role and how we see ourselves.
If you lose a pet you notice how they aren’t there to greet you in the morning, you don’t have to walk them or feed them and the house feels empty when you get home from work.
There are little holes in our daily routine. And when we step into the emptiness it can be a chance to meet ourselves with compassion. To ask what we need at this moment. To choose something that feels affirming.
The emptiness asks us – who are we now?
It’s a question only you can answer.
So often after loss, the thing we need to fill the emptiness is connection which is why I’m creating group programs/workshops to help us open our hearts (more about that later). But look for spaces in your life where you can create more connection.
Integration means we don’t leave our loved ones behind but bring them with us into the future. And we do that by making meaning.
Just as grief is intensely personal, so is finding meaning. Meaning is not the same as understanding. You may never know why they died, why you were fired, or why they decided to leave. And it’s not spiritual bypassing where we leap-frog over the pain to see the “lesson” the Universe sent us. Your loss is not a test or a lesson or a gift or a blessing in disguise or something you have to handle to earn your spiritual stripes. It’s not bad karma from a past life either. Loss is simply part of life on this planet.
“Meaning doesn’t take away the pain, it gives it a cushion.” – David Kessler
Meaning can look like…
- Finding gratitude for the moments you shared
- Feeling changed by knowing them
- Finding a way to commemorate or honour a loved one
- Creating something meaningful for others (a quilt or pillow out of their shirts or a shadow box with pictures and treasured items)
- Realizing how short life is and using it as a catalyst to create change in your life
- Accepting the relationship for what it was (good/bad) and how it shaped you
Finding meaning doesn’t have to be a grand or dramatic gesture like starting a non-profit in their name, it could be as simple as planting a tree in their honour.
Finding meaning takes time (sometimes months or even years) and only YOU can find your own meaning.
Grief is about remembering and restoring. Our feelings don’t last long but we can extend them with our thoughts. Linked thoughts become a story and the stories we tell ourselves are how we make meaning. And we have the power to change our minds, choose our thoughts, and rewrite the stories so that meaningful connections can replace painful memories. Remember the connection and restore the love.
The goal of integration and finding meaning is to remember your wholeness and move forward with ALL the pieces of you. Sometimes we leave behind joy and playfulness and define ourselves by the pain. Sometimes we try to leave the pain (ignore or avoid) and focus only on joy and gratitude so we won’t notice (fingers crossed) what hasn’t been healed. It’s not either/ or but ALL. Grateful AND grieving. Heartbroken AND joyful. Sad AND playful (maybe not all at once) but all in a lifetime because it’s all inside of us.