The other day I spoke with a widow who I have been grief coaching. It’s been over two years since her husband died. That means she’s been through multiple birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgivings. And like most widows she would say…she’s gotten through them. She didn’t always know if she could but she did, and that’s the best she could do. But lately, she said, the grief feels a little worse. A little harder. She’s crying more, yearning more, feeling more frustrated, lost, and lonely.
And she just couldn’t get it. Why, after all this time and all she’s been through and all she’s been able to accomplish, why would the grief be worse now?
I presented her with the following thought:
Imagine you’re carrying a very big boulder. It’s heavy and cumbersome. You never wanted it, wished you never had to carry it, and yet…you are unable to put it down. For a time you may get accustomed to it. Even the people around you seem used to it as they don’t really talk about it or ask about it anymore. And yes there are times it becomes a little harder. Because you’re not feeling well, or other things are being thrown at you. Sometimes more gets added to weigh down your load. But you adjust, you keep carrying, you move on.
And then one day, you feel the pain in your arms. In your back, in your legs… You feel the pain in a way you never have before. As if the full weight of what you’ve been carrying has strained and pulled every muscle, and now every ounce of you aches and you’re just not sure you can carry it any longer.
So then what? How do we carry the weight of grief?
That’s the question that most grievers face. Because in the early days of loss and grief it’s hard to see past the immediate and debilitating pain. And I think most of us, as we look into the future, assume that things will get better, maybe even a little easier, as time passes.
It’s hard to imagine long term grief in the early days of it, and the issue facing the person who is further out from their loss becomes, do I really have to live the rest of my life carrying this grief?
The answer is yes.
Yes, in some way or another it will always be with you. It will be the load that you can’t unload, the weight you can’t put down. And as I’ve mentioned in past posts, I think it’s important to remember that getting rid of grief isn’t really the goal for most.
So in the long term, how do we carry our grief?
- Break it down into smaller and more manageable pieces. Try not to carry all the complications of grief and loss all at one time. Grief as one big boulder of feeling can be unmanageable. But in smaller parts we may find we are more able to deal with the emotions as they’re coming at us. Try not to worry about you and your kids and your parents and your work and your house and your car and your dog and your friends and….(you get it!) all at the same time. On the days when grief feels the heaviest, try to break it down to the smallest piece. What’s really going on? Deal only with what is right in front of you, and what you are truly able to do, decide, or answer in that moment.
- Carry only what you need to. Is the boulder heavier than it needs to be? Yes, you will always miss, love and long for the person who is no longer here. But is anger and guilt, complicated emotions, and unfinished business weighing you down more? There are tools and skills for releasing some of the roadblocks of grief, and by letting go of them you may find the grief a bit easier to carry. Find more about those tools here.
- Find pride in your strength. Here’s the thing to remember. You have made it this far. You have had to relearn a whole new life. You have had to make decisions you would have never have had to make. Or maybe you have had to complete tasks and chores you would have never had to do. Life before this was already tricky and tiring and complicated and none of that (work, bills, laundry, traffic, schedules, appointments) has gone away. You’ve carried this load through all of it. And you’re still here.
- Share your load. I was working with another coaching client this week, she lost her teenage son. For her it’s been close to 3 years, and she too reported feeling that her grief may be getting worse. The hardest thing for her, she said, is that she feels people around her don’t understand how much she is grieving. She’s put on the happy face she thinks everyone wants to see and made this boulder of grief so invisible that the people she spends time with have no idea how much she still hurts. So I suggested that she share the load. Share her story and let people know that despite what it seems, she is missing and hurting for her son every minute of her life. Perhaps by being able to reveal the grief she carries, someone may take the walk alongside her, and help share the load.
Sharing the heavy load of grief is what www.griefincommon.com is all about. Finding others who understand, connecting because of similar circumstances and the loss you share…it may be one of the most important things you can do when you’re wondering how you’re ever going to be able to move forward.
And if more help is needed? If you’re struggling to find motivation, if you’re feeling lost, uncertain, indecisive, or you just need more one-on-one time to talk through your grief, sign up for a FREE 15 minute grief coaching consult. It could be just what you need. SIGN UP TODAY