Let’s talk about grief - grief from losing a loved one.
Love and grief - you don’t get one without the other. Grief is often the price we pay for loving someone because death and loss are unfortunately just a part of the human experience. Whether from a loss of a pet, a loss of a friendship or relationship, a death of a close friend, or a death of a partner or family member, if you love, you will grieve at some point in your life. Because almost every one of us will experience this great loss, there are so many people around you who understand your great sorrow. They know what you are feeling, because they have felt it as well. We belong in this separate community together that none of us wish we were in, but it continues to grow day after day no matter your race, religion, or economic status.
When you lose someone you love so deeply, you may find that it is hard to focus on continuing to live your life. You may even feel guilty the next time you laugh or smile. The pain is so fresh and the open scars are incredibly deep when the love was, too. From great loss, you will find yourself with a huge hole left in your world and a pain that is indescribable. Learning to cope with those holes, or scars, and navigate the rest of your existence can be one of the most challenging times of your life. The scars you now have are the evidence of their lives and how much they were loved. You have to find yourself in this great sorrow and learn your new reality by embracing these scars because the reality is that you will never stop grieving. Sure, the pain will become less and less excruciating, but the grief will always be there. It will pop up when you expect it and when you least expect it.
I was given the comparison of glitter by a close friend of mine recently after the loss of my sweet dog, Zoe. They called it “grief glitter” and I have never seen such an accurate description of grief. It is as if you threw a massive amount of glitter in the air and then attempted to clean it all up as quickly as possible because any sign of this glitter would cause you great pain. Sure, you cleaned up the majority of the glitter, but over the next days, weeks, and years, you will find tiny remnants of the glitter tucked in small places or out in the open and it will trigger the brutal pain. As time goes by, there will be less glitter appearing, but even the smallest little glimmer will take you right back to that moment of pain and great loss. This comparison was so spot on. It’s similar to the comparison of grief being like the ocean - it will always come in waves. Sometimes they are calm and sometimes they are overwhelming. You just have to learn to swim in all of the conditions.
Today is my mother’s birthday and she would have been 61 years old. It is also one of those handful of days that pop up during the year that make a huge emotional impact in my life. Her birthday, Mother's Day, holidays, and the day she passed (July 9th) all have very significant meaning to me and they all cause me to stop and reflect on the grief I still feel as well as the life I am still living. It’s like a nonstop countdown that you so desperately wish you could get rid of as the years pass, but at the same time, I find a slight comfort knowing I and others have dedicated days, like today, to celebrate her, her life, and her legacy. So, I celebrate her birthday today and write this in honor of her life. I know great sorrow and great loss from losing my mother. I understand other people’s grief and despair because of my own. I also know that you can take tragedy and find purpose within. She is the reason I strive to live a better life. She is the reason I want to make an impact in the community. She is the reason I know tomorrow is not guaranteed. She is the reason why I always want to do more. She is the reason I give to charitable causes. She is one of the reasons why I raised money for breast cancer search for fifteen years. She is one of the reasons I started The Women Project. She is the reason for so many things in my life and the main reason why I am a strong woman.
To the person who is grieving and to those who will grieve down the road - I want to tell you that you are so much stronger than you think and you can handle anything that is thrown your way. Sometimes it can feel like you will not survive the pain, but feeling the pain and letting it hurt is what shapes us and shapes who we will be the rest of our lives. In the painful chaos and struggle, you find a purpose. You learn to move on without letting go. You learn to not take life or time for granted. You learn to live in every moment and not waste time telling your loved ones that they are in fact very loved. You learn to do things you never thought you would do or would have to do. You learn that loss shows us that life itself is a gift.
It is so crucial to not hide your grief, but to celebrate their lives and honor them as you continue to live. Yes, you learn to live without them, but they really continue to live in the love they left behind in you and in others.
Be incredibly thankful for the time you had with them and for the joy they gave you in life.
Be everything you loved most about the people who are no longer with us. Let that help you heal, uplift, and strengthen you to live the most positive and purposeful life you can imagine.