by Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT
Grief is a process that evolves over time
Grief can be a very difficult process to go through. It takes courage to go through the experience of feeling raw and vulnerable. Many people mean well, but our culture doesn’t really acknowledge the long process that grief is. Many people think that after a certain period of time has passed that it’s over. But for those who have been through a death of a loved one know that it is something that occurs for the rest of your life. The feelings will come and go and you’ll gain new skills for managing it over time, but it is always a part of you. Each person’s grief process is unique and there is no one way to experience it. You get to have as much time as you need.
Grief can open us up and makes us vulnerable
I wanted to talk about how viewing grief and loss as an opening can be a helpful way of viewing the process. When a person dies we can feel like they were snatched from us. Like a band-aid being ripped off a wound we can feel exposed, raw, vulnerable, or tender. We want to protect this wound and we go on an inward journey processing all that has happened and what this new life is like without them here. I think of it as grappling with life and it can be an arduous task at times.
If we can see this time of rawness as a gift in which our heart is being opened. We are gaining experience in the depths of what it means to be human and the intense pain that can come with it. We will be able to relate to others on a more human to human level, in which all the other aspects of life (race, income, appearance, etc.) are no longer important. It’s more of a spiritual connection with this other person. We are able to see past the minutia of life that seems to compel so many people. We discover what really is important and what doesn’t matter as much. Please know that it can take time to be able to view the loved ones death in this way, and there is no rush to feel anything different than what you do.
If we can be gentle with ourselves, and know that we are okay, the intensity of grief won’t last like this forever. If we can see ourselves as a baby that needs to be nurtured and cared for and given time to adjust to this new life. It will help the process open us up and transform us in ways we never knew were possible. While the journey may be more inward, especially in the beginning, it is critical to surround ourselves with loving, caring people who have been through this process and can relate in some way to the struggle that it can be.
Sometimes we feel alone and overwhelmed. It can also transform us knowing many others have come through the pain and we can too
This journey can feel isolating at times and knowing there is someone there helps us feel more secure. It helps to know that what we are experiencing is normal and that we aren’t going “crazy”. Know that there are support groups and helping professionals available to walk beside you as you experience the ups and downs. With this loss you are forever changed, but these changes can open the door to a more sensitive and compassionate self that understands what it is like to be human at a core level. The connection you uncover between you and your fellow man, both now and in the past, can be a deep resource. I honor your struggle and your loved one. It’s not an easy journey, but it can be a powerful and transformational one.
Carlene Lehmann, M.A., LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist at Relationships Matter Austin in Austin, Texas. Carlene can support you in your grief process. It can be helpful to have someone to listen and be there for you during this difficult time. To schedule your appointment with Carlene, you can reach her at (512) 994-0432 or request an appointment with her on the Relationships Matter Austin Scheduling Page.