Why it is Important to Grieve

Why it is Important to Grieve

I know that many people have been taught not to express their emotions. Children are told from an early age not to be “cry babies” and are humiliated and made fun of when they display feelings of sadness, fear, or distress.  When a loved one passes away, many people are told to “be strong.” They are told that their children/parents/friends/work need them to soldier on, to keep their head up, and be brave. Sometimes, however, we don’t feel strong. We don’t feel brave. Actually, we feel the exact opposite. We feel terrible. It is hard to get out of bed. It is hard to imagine loving anyone or anything ever again. Here is a secret: that is how you are supposed to feel. You have suffered the loss of someone you love. There is no getting around it–that is a terrible thing. Whether you feel like you “had time to prepare” because of a long terminal illness or it was sudden, this is a tremendous and life changing event. You will be going on a hard emotional journey, whether you want to or not.

Many people don’t feel anything right away. They just keep moving forward with their lives, thinking that they can leave grief and sadness behind. The truth is that grief is like a skein of yarn. If you do not attend to it, it will get knotted with all the things you are avoiding. You will trail it behind you everywhere you go. As the string drags along behind you, snagging on things and getting hopelessly tangled, your grief will be manifesting itself anyway. It will come as guilt, loneliness, concentration problems, irritability, or other destructive behaviors. One day, you will get to the end of the string and there will be nothing left. Grief will overwhelm you. You may have been ignoring your feelings in the hopes that they will go away, but grief is like a splinter embedded in your skin. When you remove it gently and carefully, you can heal and begin to move on. The more you attempt to ignore it, the more it will hurt when you are finally forced to do something about it.

On the other hand, if you allow yourself to feel your emotions and work your way through them as they come, you can grieve in a healthy way. You can take that skein of yarn and create something out of it. No two people will make the same thing out of their grief or express their feelings in the same way. As long as you are processing your feelings in a safe and healthy manner, you will be fine. I promise that eventually the skein will run out of string. You will have moved through the grieving process and will find constructive ways to cope with your feelings. Unfortunately, the pain may never go away completely. There are people, and even pets, in our lives that are irreplaceable. When they are gone, it may scar your heart forever. But when you confront your feelings, you can find a way to express them, and let your emotional wounds scab over and heal.

Take care of yourself and encourage others to do the same. I will be praying for you.