by Edward Reid
In memory of Antonia Reid
“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you’ll learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
Finding meaning in grief can be incredibly challenging and individualized, as grief is a complex and personal experience. Grief is different for everyone, and there is no wrong way to feel, so don’t feel guilty about your emotions. Yet, how can we healthily cope with grief and not be overwhelmed or face tragedy in a way that may affect us negatively?
Here are some steps and perspectives that may help you find meaning during grief:
- Allow Yourself to Grieve: Give yourself permission to feel and express emotions fully. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way and pace. Remember, you will often encounter two types of people: those who have lost a loved one and those who have not yet. The latter usually advises us on how to grieve; they may say things more or less, like “get over it” and move on. There is no “getting over” losing a loved one – they will offer us platitudes about it being “for the best.” That is for you to decide. You are free to avoid and ignore them but also remember some of them do mean the best.
- Seek Support: It can be crucial to reach out to friends, family, or a support group that can provide a safe space to share your feelings and experiences. Talking about your grief can help you process it and find meaning during loss. Knowing that you are not alone can be essential in grieving and make the impact easier; you will not feel so unique, which can often cause a feeling of depression and hopelessness.
- Look for Lessons and Growth: Life is always about learning; we find meaning in the darkest places. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, stresses, “Despair is suffering without meaning.” This point is the place we don’t want to get to. We can always find meaning; he asks, “What kind of attitude will I have toward my suffering? Will I become bitter or better?” Indeed, when we lose a loved one, we suffer, but what will we do with that suffering? That can be our choice. There are lessons to learn and opportunities for personal growth amid grief. Reflect on what you’ve learned from the person you lost or from the experience of grief itself. Part of the loss is what you learned from the person who passed, and a way to honor the individual is to share those lessons and memories.
- Honoring Memories: You can create rituals or memorials that honor the memory of your loved one, celebrating their life and the positive impact they had on you and others.
- Find Purpose in Pain: Pain or grief can often inspire one to make changes in their lives or help others in various ways; one therapeutic way is by helping others experiencing similar situations. Finding purpose in pain is not unusual either. This experience has inspired many people to become who they are, and many have changed the world because suffering inspired them to do so. This, too, is a way to honor those you have lost.
- Acknowledge Emotions: Embrace the emotions of grief, including sadness, anger, guilt, and especially moments of joy in remembering. Recognize that emotions are part of the grieving process. Stuffing your emotions and avoiding your grief can be unhealthy because you will have to face the loss at some point.
- Seek Professional Help: This is nothing to be ashamed of; this is a healthy and proactive way to work through your sorrow. Consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor specializing in grieving.
- Practice Self–Compassion: Now is not the time to be critical or beat yourself up because we are often critical of our grieving process, as though we are not doing it correctly or not living up to the standards of what others expect. Grief is not something to “get over”: it’s something to integrate into your life in a way that allows you to continue living while honoring the memories of your loved ones. They are a part of you, and you are who you are because of them, and simply being you honors them.
Finding meaning in grief is a personal journey. Having good and bad days are normal, and healing from grief is not linear. Allow yourself space to feel, heal and eventually find meaning in your way.
“As a perfume doth remain in the folds where it hath lain, So the thought of you, remaining Deeply folded in my brain, Will not leave me: all things leave me: You remain.” Arthur Symons