I am not expert on grief. Grief and I have only been acquainted for 9 months. But I have become an expert on my grief, not my husband’s, and certainly not yours, but my own ever changing journey of grief.
This is the thing about grief; no two people have the same journey; not even if two people lost the same baby, or father, or sibling, or pet. The journey will always be experienced differently. It only makes sense to me that this would be true since we have all experienced a very different life leading up to that loss. We all have very different relationships with our support networks and different relationships with those in our lives who aren’t supportive. But mostly it comes down to the fact that we simply have a very different lens through which we view the experience.
Meeting those who have experienced a loss very similar to my loss of Theodore has shown me that as much as we have similar threads woven in our hearts, we are all very much on our own journey. The authentic sharing of our hearts and feelings allows space for these differences. A deeper connection is made when a thread that feels so close to a thread you carry is exposed or when you hold space for a thread that isn’t something that you have experienced or feel but can love that person whole heartedly while meeting them where they are at.
The last few weeks have really made me take a hard look at my journey and all the experiences I have gone through. I have encountered some of the most beautiful people who can surprisingly do all the right things, which often include doing nothing but sending love openly and acknowledging where I am at without judgment. Then there are those who are able to offer love as long as it doesn’t distract from their personal happiness. Experiencing this a few times I have realized our society is very uncomfortable with allowing heartache and joy to coexist. Life isn’t linear. It has many twists and turns, hills, valleys and mountains. It has moments that leave you bursting with love and joy as well as moments that are heart wrenching. It is unreasonable to think that we would all be at the same place at the same time. The only way to fully support each other through real life is by allowing both heartache and joy to coexist in a beautifully open way. One simply can’t distract from the other; allowing both to be present makes it authentically beautiful.
After digging a bit deeper within myself and wondering why people struggle with the notion that heartache and joy can coexist, I found myself returning to the judgment piece. Often people who have experienced a loss of any kind feel judged. Those surrounding a person experiencing loss are often peeking in a window to that person’s world looking for signs of them “getting better”. People love to say statements such as “you are doing amazing” or “you aren’t getting better” or even “you seem to be getting worse”. The truth is all of that is garbage. It is just a judgmental perspective even when said out of love. The truth is “better” or “getting worse” are just your judgmental observations of my grief and have nothing to do with me. I have just been me experiencing my emotions. They may last a minute, a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime and anything in between. I don’t feel better or worse, I just feel. Sometimes it is heavy and may look like it is getting messy and sometimes it is light and beautiful but one isn’t better than the other. It truly is nothing more than IT JUST IS.
Maybe if people can view the hard stuff in life without judgment and accept it for what it is, then it will become easier to allow space for it right beside another person’s beautiful happy moments in life.
Because no two people’s experience with loss is identical it makes it impossible to compare journeys and leaves no room for judgment. The hard truth is you simply can’t fairly judge what you don’t know. It has been said a million times but, there is no timeline for grief. I personally don’t agree with labeling stages of grief. It just is. Meeting a person where they are at, with no judgment, while loving them through it all is the only way to support one another in life.
My only advice to loving a person experiencing grief is to acknowledge their feelings, give them endless amounts of love and recognize that your impressions and judgments about their grief is truly about you and not them. They are just feeling what their heart feels just like you do every day about a million other things.