Grief does not have a definitive ending. There is no moment in time you arrive at with a sigh of relief and a renewed bounce in your step. Instead, grief sets us upon an atelic journey through emotion, winding us along a new path of life where we have memories instead of phone calls, and pictures instead of hugs. One of the tasks of grieving is certainly to discover new ways to hold the memory of the person you have lost so as to appreciate of the continuity of your relationship with them.
I think of grieving as a dance between sorrow and longing, love and remembering. Feeling the gift of a memory and allowing the accompanying music of emotions to wash over you – letting your heart fill with love, allowing a threshold of pain, a tear of sadness – all the while keeping your feet on the dance floor of the present moment. Do not walk backwards through time and live in the pain of loss. Step forward bravely, holding the memories in your heart, and finding a new way to honour your loved one.
There are lessons to be learned in grief, if we tune in and allow the process of unfold: that loving means we will one day experience loss, and that living means we will feel both joy and sorrow. That each bittersweet memory is like a gentle kiss, lingering and leaving you wanting another. And as each memory brings with it sadness, or anger, or regret, so too can it bring joy and laughter. We all have the capacity to stay grounded in the present moment, to love those that are still with us, and to learn and accept our shortcomings and try differently. Grief demands that when we turn to the past to mourn, we must also remember to return to the present moment: because we are here, living this life. By living it fully and honouring memories as they arise, we honour the ones we have lost.
If one of your loved ones has died, and you are touching into the profound pain of loss, I’d like to share a strategy that can help you navigate through the emotion. The following questions can be used for reflection in whatever means works for you (such as journaling prompts, a point to reflect, or a story to share with a trusting friend or family member). Take your time with your responses, reflect on them, and allow them to grow as you need. The inner reflection prompted by these questions aids in grieving as they are designed to spark remembering, a continuity of your relationship with the person you have lost, and a bringing of your story forward in order to transfuse it with new meaning.
Personal Reflection Questions:
- How was my life shaped or influenced by this person?
- What stories do I want to carry forward in my life, to keep the legacy of this person alive within me?
- What will my practices of remembering be?
- What stories, strengths, and attributes do you believe this person would have wanted you to carry forward from their life, in your daily life?
- What teachings did this person bestow upon you, that will continue to live by?
- What memory stands out for you today of this person?
- If you could talk to this person right now, what would you say?
This article is written in honour of my Nonna, who was always wise, strong, and beautiful
Giuseppina “Nella” Di Staulo, Oct 12 1928-Jan 28 2019