On Grieving and Self-Care

fern growing out of a rock

Five years ago today, my life changed dramatically and unexpectedly. It wasn’t so much that I was blind-sided—after all, my intuition had known the truth for quite some time—it was simply that a sequence of events had escalated to the point that I could no longer deny the truth. And that’s the moment my grieving process began.

Grieving’s Ugliness

Grieving is all sorts of ugly. It’s messy and unpredictable and irrational, and it makes day-to-day life feel more like carrying a bag of bowling balls up 18 flights of stairs. It destroys health. It feeds feelings of worthlessness. And it leaves you wondering if you’ll ever be able to feel anything again.

It was through those early stages of my grieving that I discovered self-care, and later created a framework to rebuild my life. I chose to immerse myself in self-development and self-preservation because I’d seen the destruction that numbing behaviors caused in the lives of people I care about. And while that knowledge gave me a deepened sense of compassion for those who struggle with alcohol and substance addictions, both forms of numbing, I simply couldn’t handle the additional suffering that those options were sure to bring.

If you or someone you love is facing a mental and/or substance use disorder, call the National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit their website.

In addition to self-care and working with a therapist, I found hope through reading. I devoured books that promised healing, and I scoured their pages desperately searching for answers about what I should do to feel whole again.

I read books on suffering and acceptance, like Byron Katie’s Loving What Is* and Thich Nhat Hanh’s No Mud, No Lotus* and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning*.

I read books on the experience of being human, like Bill Plotkin’s Nature and the Human Soul* and Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements* and Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection*.

I read books on setting better boundaries, like James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher’s The Power of No* and Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Boundaries*.

I read books on meditation and spirituality, like A Course in Miracles* and The Bible and Jon Kabat Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are*.

The Other Side of Grief

But despite that turbulent time in my life, I discovered that I’m much more resilient than I once thought. Eventually, I was able to pick myself up again. I was able to feel something again. And I was able to love again.

Today my life is quite different than it was before the unraveling. Today, I’m more adventurous. I’m stronger—a lot stronger. I trust my intuition more. I allow myself to experience more joy. I’m healthier. I’m less vulnerable. And I exercise my right to not participate more—in events or relationships that are unhealthy or disrespectful.

The Grief Process Isn’t Linear

But the truth is, some days I’m still angry. I used to believe the grief process was linear, that once I moved through each of the so-called phases or steps, I could put a check mark next to them and move on with my life. I didn’t quite understand that I’d need to re-experience those emotions—sadness, anger, resentment, guilt, fear—as many times as necessary to grasp the lessons hidden within them.

I now understand that grief doesn’t operate under a finite timeline. It takes as long as it takes. And it’s a private, individual experience that doesn’t require explanation or justification. Just because others may not understand your process or timeline, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.

Grieving Isn’t Living

But perhaps my most valuable lesson has been that while grief is often associated with loss, it’s much more than that. It’s an opportunity to press the reset button on life. It’s a process of rediscovering what you want out of life, how you want to experience it, and what you want to contribute to it.

And, if nothing more, it’s a push to start living again.

Because grieving isn’t living. It simply exists to remind us that beauty will eventually reemerge from the cracks of our brokenness when we’re ready to allow it to grow within us.

Grieving isn’t living. It simply reminds us that beauty will eventually reemerge from the cracks of our brokenness when we’re ready to allow it to grow within us. Click To Tweet

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