Grief is like a shadow. Where there was once a bright and warming light in your life, suddenly it feels as if there is only dark. Sometimes it is gradual, like the sun moving across the sky toward nighttime. Sometimes it is like someone closed the door on a capsule that seems to block out all the light that was once there. Either way it is painful and requires time and patience with yourself to find the light again.
I have watched many beautiful sun’s set. The brightest I had known, set when I was 19 years old. Though it was expected, the finality of it once it finally happened was immense. There was a confusion for me. How could the world just keep on going when something so significant had happened? How can the world not feel that this giant glorious light was now lacking from the world? I cried a lot of course, but this feeling was perhaps more difficult to wrestle with. I now have to live my life with one of the brightest lights I had known absent.
Something I learned during this process is that I was entitled to the emotions I was feeling. If I needed to cry, I cried. If I needed to talk, I would reach out. Some people feel that the grief process is something that should happen quickly, something you can get over in the determined socially acceptable period of time. I refused that period of time. I took the time I needed. I was hurt when suggestions were made of getting over it, but I knew that I needed that time and took it without shame. Perhaps it was the influence of who I had lost that gave me the strength to take that time.
Other than time, the thing that provided the most healing in the process was being with people who knew them and loved them. Hearing stories of the wonderful ways their lives had been impacted by them. Though the source of this brilliant light was gone, I could see glimmers of it still alive in others that had once experienced it and remembered its impact. The numerous stories of their kind words and actions lived on in those who knew them and loved them. When these stories were shared, I could feel that light again. It wasn’t the same, nor could it replace them, but it made the darkness I was feeling less like an endless void I would be trapped in forever.
Now, many years later, I don’t wrestle with it the way I did in the beginning. I have aged, I have grown, I see many things differently. I still believe, though, that you must take the time and space you need to get over the pain in the beginning. Don’t let anyone tell you what your grieving process should be or how long it should last. Be gentle with yourself; you will have moments when the pain will resurface unexpectedly, possibly for years. Don’t be embarrassed or feel shame for it. Revel in the wonderful stories and memories you have, and the stories of others. For me this was the greatest way to feel their light close again even if it wasn’t technically in the same room.
I believe that the shadow cast by the loss of a beloved person in your life is the direct result, even evidence, of how bright that light was. You wouldn’t even notice the darkness if their light hadn’t been so brilliant. You wouldn’t even feel the void of their absence if they hadn’t been such a significant presence in the first place. When you are ready, this may be a point of view that could help. How lucky we are to have these people in our lives, to fill it with their brilliant light. While it seems hard to believe at first, this light is still there, even after they have left, in the people who knew, and shared that light. It may never be the brilliant sun it once was, but it can still be that beam shining through the storm clouds or filtered through trees on a nice day. The connection we have with them may change, but it never truly leaves. So seek it out, for it will be the thing that most heals you.