Grief is Not a Bad Word

Grief. What a strange word. Before I lost Halia, this word had very little context to me. I thought I understood it… but frankly I had no earthly idea what true grief meant.

Before our loss, I would sympathetically sit with those who lost but it did not touch me. I would hug them and say the usual platitudes to help “cheer them up.” I would state that I could not even imagine what they were going through. I would state that I would pray for them and silently just thank God it wasn’t me… Oh, how I wish I could go back and really sit in their grief with a heart of empathy and love. I wish I could go back in time and change that girl. God, forgive me for my ignorance.

What does grief mean to me now? Grief is a memory of my daughter. The longing to raise her or hold her again. Grief is the love I have for Halia whom the world no longer sees as real. Grief, as a mother, is living every day in a world that sees three boys but does not recognize my fourth child, the only girl. I carry her everywhere I go.

What is grief not? For me, grief is no longer being curled in a ball every day unable to move. It is not being stuck in the raw moments of her passing. Days after finding out we had lost her, I was stuck here as I tried to process my new reality. For those in this place, take comfort that the world is still beautiful and you will find joy again, but today is okay to be in the waves of grief. Give yourself permission to be in this place and be gentle with yourself.

What else is grief not? Grief is not keeping myself so busy that I forget this ever happened. There are days that it feels like I dreamed Halia up. Those days are the very roughest of all. The denial of the pain brings on waves of deep grief later. I have not “conquered” my grief but have just postponed it and piled it up with interest. And how could I forget my child? The answer is that I cannot forget her. Could I deny that I have a hand or leg? She is as much a part of who I am as my physical body and I love her just as I love my other children.

Grief is not putting on a smile to help others feel more comfortable. What a burden it is to not only have lost but then feel responsible for how truly uncomfortable people become around you. I have felt like a wounded animal in certain groups or seen the burden my grief lays on those who feel uneasy around loss. Are you able to handle grief? Do you add to the griever’s distress by telling them, explicitly or implicitly, to cheer up?

Grief is not a bad word. It is healthy and good for people to express their grief. Can you sit with them?

Challenge: reflect on your own interactions with those who have lost. Did you help them with their journey by being a safe person or did you hinder them by trying to stop their grief? Could you let them express their feelings or did you just want their feelings to stop? Feelings are so very difficult, especially “negative” ones, but they are a part of life. Can you be an ally to those who have lost or do you shut down their story?

Action: Who can you hug and sit with in their grief today? Bring them flowers. Text them to let them know you remember their loved one. Bake them a meal. You do you but let them know that you see their pain and will be there for them.

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