Vulnerability breeds empathy, which is the foundation for all human connection. When we show others our wounds, we offer ourselves tender love and care. We show our pain that it can be held and cared for.
Healing requires us to live courageously and allow ourselves to fully experience the feelings of loss and grief. Courage is to tell your story with your whole heart. When grief is part of your story, it needs to be held to be healed.
We cannot heal what is not processed, and it takes time to move through the pain of loss and experience the emotions of grief. Even when it is scary, we must follow our hearts and honor our grief. Allow our hearts to heal the way they want to. Grief teaches us the power of love, and our resilience.
When we practice courage we can lean into showing the world our whole self, wounds and all.
Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to. In that regard, Grief has a lot in common with Love.
An Open Letter to Grief:
Ignore it all you want. It will come to get you.
I had a client die. I am used to death. It has been all around me. Personal and professional. I cannot tell you how many death notifications I have given. How many people I have seen die. The dead people I have seen.
I did not expect the amount of emotion nor the challenge of helping my client in the end of life transition that we spoke about many times.
I am human.
We can have the best of intentions but when in the moment, it changes. You change. We change. Others change. What we expect things to be is not quite what it becomes.
We all grieve differently, as unique as a fingerprint.
Grief does weird things to us. It can make us act out of character. It can consume our whole being and make us feel out of sorts. Like a different person. Consume us in ways we never imagined.
I may be called “psychologist” but titles mean nothing at this moment even though I used them to try to defend against the emotion I did not intend to feel. I have decades of experience in working with death, dying, and mayhem, under various titles. No titles prepare you for grief.
If there is one thing I have learned about grief, you ignore it, it will haunt you.
It will show up in the times we don’t want it to.
Grief will rise when you need to be composed.
It will make you feel like you're losing your mind. Grief may make you question your sanity.
Like the time I could not turn off a light in my home as I kept seeing the dead face of my friend, my coworker, over and over in my mind, till it finally stopped. It was my obligation to determine her cause of death. I hear my client's dying breath, like I have heard so many others do, yet it landed differently this time. Moments that stay with me.
Logically, I understand my brain is trying to make sense of reality. The reality that 24 hours earlier, my coworker and I were laughing and talking about how chocolate was the best thing in the world. Then, I was sawing open her skull, while tears were flowing down my face, to find out she had died from a brain aneurysm. The same way, less than two weeks ago, my client and I were laughing and walking before she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and died.
I say, died. It may sound harsh but the truth. Reality, it’s what we need in the darkest of times. The act of grieving, believe it or not, helps.
We need the human touch. Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I blew out her hair and painted her fingers and toe nails as that were her wishes. I laughed about sliding into the home base of life's chocolate. Fulfilling each other's wants no matter what when we died. Life is not guaranteed and this moment, the present, is truly a gift.
The gift that my client gave me over our years of connecting as souls is priceless. Doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. The basic principles of life.
I would not change anything I have experienced. I have been there for them the way I know I would want people to be there for me.
Tomorrow, I will walk and celebrate with my client, whom I call a friend. Such an incredible soul that deserves to be celebrated and remembered for all that our relationship has brought and changed in the world.
The imprint will not be forgotten.
May we live as brave and fearless in honor.
When we trust others with our sorrow, fear, and grief, we make a deeper connection with others. We all experience loss and grief. We are not alone. We are never alone. And we are here for each other.
Sadness is actually what deeply bonds us as humans. It takes real courage to support each other through grief and pain. The people we are closest with in our lives are often those we have shared the hardest times. It’s generally pretty easy to be around people when we are happy.
Each time that we allow ourselves to be seen at our lowest points, our trust and connection with those we share that vulnerability with deepens. Our trust in ourselves deepens, because now we know that we can move through the pain.
Connection is why we are here, it's what gives meaning and purpose to our lives. It isn't easy being vulnerable yet worth the risk if we want to experience true connection.