Grief is something all of us will experience in our lives because death and endings are a part of life. And I suppose that can be a comfort, a way to make the grief make sense, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. However the idea of grief is something many of us associate solely with death; in this last year redefining what grief is for me has helped me to process it and let myself grow. Grief doesn’t just apply to the death of a loved one – it applies to the end of a situation, a relationship, a friendship.
This post isn’t a deep dive into grief – the stages, the processes, the sharing and healing etc – there are so many wonderful resources out there already for that (although I would encourage anyone interested to also look for creative explorations and presentations of grief in art, theatre, literature etc because it’s so healing). This post is more like me outstretching my hand with my own experiences to tell anyone out there who might happen to stumble across this that it’s ok, I’ve been there too.
In the last year I have grieved a lot. And it hasn’t always been sad – I think most of us know grief isn’t like that. In fact, I didn’t even realise at first that I was grieving; being autistic I just thought I was having a hard time adjusting to change, and I felt a lot of shame around that, the need to just move on quicker. And, ok yeah, I do definitely find change difficult. But noticing and naming the grief has actually set me free a bit.
In June I lost my home. I left in the morning and I never went back; I had no idea that would be my last time leaving that house. I don’t remember leaving, I don’t remember the last thing I said to that person, the last time my dog came to say hello to me in the morning – because you’re not meant to remember those things. I had almost no reaction for 8 months, and then an intense explosion of anger. Feeling sad about it is still hard. And for a lack of a reaction, I thought I had a lack of grief. But I don’t. It affected my ability to feel safe in the place I am living, always feeling like any moment it could be pulled out from under me, and with that came the grief. That uncertainty was my way through to grief.
I also left my school, which I considered my home. And this was so hard to grieve because it seemed like everyone else moved on quicker and I was just stuck, but grieving school has been perhaps the most transformative experience of this year. It’s been my path through to expanding my sense of self, world, connection, and love. It also hurts. So if like me you are thinking you’re being too slow to move on from something, please know it is alright. You are allowed to take up space, to feel, and to go on your own journey. Even if it’s a positive step, leaving behind things that mattered so much to us is painful. And we do grieve things, situations and places – not just people.
I believe the thing about grief is you can’t force it or rush it. The only thing you can do is allow it, without allowing it to consume you. It’s hard but life does carry on. Maybe joy and excitement and purpose won’t look the same as before, but you are allowed to redefine these things.
This year I have grieved the death of my grandmother; the possibility of a relationship that could have been in the context of a death that will be; and perhaps strangest of all, I have grieved the living. All of these are complicated, all of them come with different challenges and presentations. Sometimes I feel shame because my strongest reactions are about a dog, or a place, rather than the person who has actually died. But really they all mix together in a way too; they link and lace around each other to become an imprint on me and my journey. I’m ok with that.
Point is – there is not one way to grieve. There is not one situation in which grief appears. And all of us will grieve many many times in our lives. This is your journey to figure out, but not alone; we are connected in our love and our loss, however it finds us.
Sending so much love and support to you all today xx