We associate grief with the sadness which follows death, the loss and the ache of mourning and life without the ones we love. But those things can also come without death.
We see people grieving for the loss of their loved ones when conditions like Alzheimers have robbed them of their connection, leaving only a shell of the person they loved.
We see the anger and pain of those who are estranged from their parents on days like Fathers Day and Mothers Day. At a time when social media is flooded with loving dedications and heartfelt thanks and praise, there are some who are wounded by the fact that they don’t have similar words to share about a relationship that ‘should be’ one of the strongest.
We see the helplessness of people who watch their loved ones on missions of self destruction, powerless to help or stop them when they are consumed by addiction or dangerous life choices. Waiting and preparing for the inevitable notification that they have lost them to their demons.
And we see the ache of Mothers and Fathers raising children who will never live the lives they had planned for them. Mothers like me who adore the bones of their children and have no doubt at all that their child will live the very best and happiest life that they can but have moments none the less when they see glimpses of the life their child could have enjoyed. To change their lives would be to change the child themselves and I know I couldn’t bring myself to do that, even if I had the power to, but there are times when I do wish that my son Harry could at least have the option of high school work experience, of whether he attends the latest party, of whether he wants to study, work or travel in the future. I don’t grieve the loss of my child, I grieve for the loss of his choices and for my own hopes for my precious cargo as I nursed my pregnancy bump almost 14 years go.
Grief is not just about death. It’s about loss and that comes in so many forms. Learning to live with grief is a skill that takes time and patience along with the acceptance that there are things we can’t change, good memories that can comfort us in times of distress and new plans to make when we realise that plan A is no longer an option.
There is a saying that happiness is a journey and not a destination. In the same sense, grief is a pause, it’s not an ending. Be honest in those moments of great sadness and find the joy where you can in the moments that can still warm your aching heart. Grief is a description of a part of your life, it doesn’t have to be a definition.
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