A milestone just passed in my life. My daughter would have been six months old, which also means that she has been gone for four months. I can hardly believe it. Part of me feels that was a lifetime ago, while the other part of me is still struggling to believe that she is not here. It feels like it should have been more climactic, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t even remember she was gone on the sixth month marker.
Another milestone: her first birthday. Then, a family wedding where she wasn't in the picture. And so the milestones continue, but I don't always feel them. Sometimes I do.
Now I remember, and it hurts.
I looked at pictures, bringing back so many vivid memories that I thought would never resurface. I saw the nurses’ faces as they cared for her that final day. I remember Charlotte, the nurse who cried as she went off shift. I can smell the sanitizer in the room. I can see them making footprints. I feel the doctors hovering close by. I remember. I bring to recall, and it hurts. But it wasn’t on the milestone day. It was just a Thursday, while sweeping the floor, that these memories rushed in. It was uncontrollable and it just happened. Yes, the milestone days may be difficult, but they may not be. Maybe today I’m hurting the most.
There is no time like the present to move into the present.
The moments when our grief is so heavy, when our eyes are watery and our emotions raw, is the perfect time to move into the present. Embrace the pain. Feel all the feels. Don’t wait for that special day or time, but embrace the feelings when they come. Allow yourself space to BE in the moment. And when that birthday, or Christmas, or other milestone happens... you can grieve then too, but don’t require it of yourself. Do it when it needs doing. You need to cry at work? That’s okay, do it. You need to cancel an appointment because it is bringing back too many painful memories of the last time you were there? Do it. You need to reschedule a coffee date with a friend? Do it. BUT, here’s the big but.
Be proactive in your healing, don’t allow yourself to numb the pain so you don’t feel.
Healing comes in the feeling. Numbing might bring instant feel-goods, but will never allow you to move fully forward. I’m not just talking alcohol here (but if alcohol is your go-to, then I am talking alcohol!). I’m talking about any drug you use to knock the edge off what you feel. Work. Scrolling social media. Binging on shows. Excessive exercise. Blaming others. Controlling everything around you.
Numbing your pain just leaves it for another day. And another day. And another. When all those days add up, they will hit hard. No doubt about it. So take a few minutes (or a day or week!) when your grief hits, and allow yourself to FEEL. Feeling the deepest hurt will also allow you to feel the deepest joy.
In the movie Inside Out (one of my only favorite animated movies!), it is illustrated so well that by feeling sadness in its entirety, we discover how to also feel the deepest joy. A line that has stuck with me...
It is through sadness that we rediscover joy.
Rediscovering joy. Is that even possible? How can I begin to feel again? I've asked myself these questions many times. I've asked others. Each person is a little different, but some helpful practices are the following:
Crying (don't hold it in!). Journal. Pray. Walk. Reminisce. Talk to others about your loss. Be angry. Yell. Run in the rain. Soak in music. Read Scripture. But just remember this--you don’t have to resolve it. This is a journey, not a race to finish the cycle of grief.
So, today I’m going to feel. I choose to hurt, because I know that will bring healing. Even though it may be the hardest choice I've ever made. And I would invite you to join me. Would you consider giving yourself permission to feel your pain today?
Let’s be kind to ourselves, let’s treat ourselves to some tears today.
Inside Out | Disney/Pixar