As I look down at my phone, I notice another email starting with the words, “We regret to inform you of the passing of….” Disheartened, I begin to wonder how we continue to live on as normally as possible when the year has already begun with so much grief.
However, our lives wouldn’t be “normal” without grief. Grief is a natural, normal and necessary reaction to change and loss, and it bonds us as a community. This bond strengthens each of us in a unique way and is not a form of weakness. We all grieve differently, and that’s okay. Some of us cry a lot; some of us talk a lot; some of us seek the solace and support of friends and large groups; some of us prefer to be alone and write, draw or listen to music. But before we can grieve, we must acknowledge our loss. It is hard to admit that loss and death are part of life, and it might seem easier to deny these or pretend that everything is okay, but recognizing a loss gives it less power over us and allows us to grieve well.
While the death of a loved one is an obvious loss, there are other types of “deaths” in our everyday lives: failing a quiz, breaking off a friendship or relationship, suffering an injury, realizing that a life dream is no longer viable, losing a job. These losses can affect us just like a physical death and are also worth grieving.
Grief is a journey. But it’s not the kind of journey that requires a GPS to tell us exactly where to go and when we will arrive at our destination. There are no set stages, steps, or Siri directions during the grieving process, and there is no ETA to when we will finish the journey. We may encounter rocks, road closures, and seemingly impassable rivers, but we cannot “get over” a loss as easily as we can jump over a rock, nor can we avoid a loss as readily as we can avoid a closed road. Rather, we must get through our losses, just as we must walk through the muddy river to get to the other side, leading us to hope and healing.
So the next time I look at my phone and read about a death or loss, I will acknowledge this loss, allow myself to grieve it well, and understand that grief takes time. I will realize that while I feel one way about a loss or change, the person sitting next to me may feel completely different. And that’s okay — when iGrieve, I begin a journey that is messy and unpredictable, but I have what it takes to survive it. And I will leave my GPS behind.