Finding Light in the Darkness of Grief
By Linus Mundy
What do you do when it feels like grief is your only possession? It has entered into your every waking moment and into your dreams. It has taken the light out of your life, leaving a darkness that you feel is surrounding you, blinding you from seeing new hope and new life. What can you do? Whether you are “hitting bottom” now, or feel as though you’ve been in a vicious cycle of getting better only to get worse, there are paths out of this long and deep darkness—and many before you have taken these paths or are on the way to healing now.
Working your way through
Of course, all who find healing from loss are still quick to remind us that each of us must find our own way out of the darkness, and that even after we are “out” into the light, not everything is cheery and bright again. The point is that the pain of loss remains with us, but is something that need not keep overwhelming us. This CareNote explores the question that remains: What can I do with this grief?
Grief: Honor it. Allow it.
In other words, as you may have already discovered, a “stiff upper lip” will not do the job. Indeed, sadness needs its own time; it demands it, even though we may wish this were not so. “No one needs to be brave all the time,” a counselor told me after the death of my mother. Death, he did not need to remind me, had already taken the life of my mother; but, now I must not let it take what was good in my own life (happiness/peace/normalcy), as well.
Grief: Share it. Express it.
While grief is a very private emotion, it can also be all-consuming if it is not shared. We all need others who can carry us when our own strength has simply left us. We get this support from many who love us, and yet we sometimes need to do the brave and wise thing and seek professional help.
Grief: Schedule it. Divide it into pieces.
You may scoff at the idea of “scheduling” your grief, but bereavement counselors urge us to not let our grief be all-consuming. This does not mean forgetting your loss; that will not happen. But to interrupt the toll that sadness is taking, even for a small respite, can provide the re-energizing that you may require. It is a must to give yourself little “pockets of peace.”
Grief: Survive it. Use it.
It so often happens that the greatest healers are those who have suffered the greatest wounds. By entering into the dark world of pain, we earn our stripes. We not only get our “grief permits,” we also earn something rare and precious: the gift of genuine understanding, the gift of empathy and unity with those who suffer. You are now a certified expert who knows things that can help others. And best of all, in gently turning your pain to the love and service of others, you gain a new sense of purpose and meaning.
Seek the Light.
If you are blessed with religious faith, your belief in a loving God will, of course, be one of your most priceless gifts. It is a powerful thing to remember that there is a Divine Light within all of us, even in our darkest days.
Author Karen Katafiasz observes, “There will come a time to remind yourself of your reasons for living. You have a future worth enduring for, and you deserve to find a renewed sense of purpose and pleasure in your life.”