Updated: Mar 20
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For most of us, Christmas, New Year, birthdays and anniversaries are a time for celebration, laughter and spending quality time with friends and family. But these times of year are often the most difficult and painful for anyone coping with a bereavement.
The grief we feel when losing someone close to us is unlike any other feeling. Words cannot even begin to scratch the surface or do justice to the sorrow we endure. Nothing ever prepares us for the utter despair and special times of year just seem to make our loss all the more poignant.
There is nothing wrong with grieving. Grief is a natural process that human beings and many animals need to go through. But why does grief sometimes seem to last so long?
We grieve because we deeply miss someone who was a big part of our lives. Grief not only happens when someone dies, it also occurs when a relationship breaks down or a person is no longer a part of our lives. Whether the person we have lost is physically alive or not, the feeling can be exactly the same and just as intense.
Grief is a feeling unlike any other. It is one of immense in-completion and despair. Our hearts ache with the deep loss we feel for that special person and we long for the emptiness to be filled with their presence again. We long to physically embrace them in our arms once more, to hear their voice, touch their skin and smell their scent one more time.
When they were with us, we loved them so much that they carved a chasm deep in our hearts. But now they are gone, even the thought of beginning to move on without them seems an impossible task and even disloyal to their memory. So instead of looking for peace, we sit on the edge of the chasm they carved, staring longingly for them, but instead, all we see is the vast, cold void of emptiness. The chasm in our hearts no longer becomes associated with the deep love we felt for them, it becomes a ‘Chasm of Grief’. This ‘Chasm of Grief’ provides us with constant, painful reminders of the person we lost. But to have a reminder of them, no matter how much it hurts, feels better than having no reminder at all. This is how the Chasm of Grief begins to consume us.
Sometimes, we try to cope with the pain by shutting ourselves away, especially if others seem to be coping better with their grief than we are. But we are all different, and the ways in which we manage our loss are personal and unique to each individual.
Occasionally, we reach out to others. We want someone to listen to us talk for a while and acknowledge our grief without judgement. However, this is when we hear that oh so familiar phrase, 'Give it time.'
‘Give it time’, is one of those well-intentioned pieces of advice frequently offered to us whether we asked for advice or not. To be fair, even if the people we turn to have also lost someone close at some point in their lives, most do not know what to say to help you through your time of need. Saying ‘Give it time’, fills up some of that awkward silence. But most of all, it allows them to walk away from the conversation feeling as though they have helped you out, when the only thing you really wanted, was for someone to just sit down with you and listen without saying a word.
But you know what? I hear from so many people who are hurting just as badly as they did when they first lost their loved one ten, twenty or even thirty years ago and longer. Time does NOT always make things better and time is definitely NOT guaranteed to heal the pain or take away your grief.
So I'm not going to patronize you and suggest that you 'Give it more time'. Instead, I just want to convey one message...
What I am about to share with you does not require any faith in God. Whether you believe in an afterlife, or even if you don't, this message is just as much for atheists as it is for believers of all faiths and traditions. While faith provides many billions of people with enormous comfort, the truth is, faith is not the important factor and faith has never been a requirement for coming to terms with your loss. In my experience, there is only one factor that truly matters, and this is the universal key to making the pain of losing someone a little easier to bear.
Do you remember the 'Chasm of Grief' we were staring into? Well, the reason why it feels so bad when we stare into this deep, dark void of emptiness, is because there is nothing. It is a lifeless abyss. It is cold, dead and silent. This deathly silence just hurts us even more, reminding us of their absence and the silence we have endured every single day since we lost them. Even though it hurts, we still cling to the grief because the pain is such a potent reminder of our loss. That is what the ‘Chasm of Grief’ does. It tricks us into clinging to the loss, rather than remembering the person. This is why grief feels so empty, lifeless and hopeless. The empty ‘Chasm of Grief’ has the power to fill us with such a dreadful, hollow sadness, that in some cases, the pain of grief can last for years or even decades.
So how do we overcome the power of the Chasm of Grief? Before you feel the pull to stare once more into the ‘Chasm of Grief’, write down some happy memories of the person who is no longer in your life. Do it now.
Think of their smile, their face, how you held them, the sound of their laughter or something you did together. Whether the memories make you cry, laugh or smile, write them all down on a piece of paper. Have you done it? Now, fold the paper up and keep it with you at all times.
As you begin to dread the approach of Christmas or a special anniversary and find your thoughts start to wander ever closer toward the edge of the ‘Chasm of Grief’, unfold the piece of paper and read what you have written on it. Allow your mind to focus on those memories. Allow those memories to fill your consciousness. Let them make you smile, or even shed a few tears. When you do this, it’s important that you connect with the memory of the person, rather than the feelings of loss. Relive those special moments as if they were still with you. Feel the joy and love. As you connect with the memories, instead of the loss, you will begin to feel the universal key to managing grief coming to the forefront of your awareness. So what is this 'universal key'?
When you are grieving for someone, it is because of the love you feel for them. You don’t require a spiritual faith to believe in love. An atheist who is grieving for the loss of a loved one believes in love, even though they cannot prove their love ever existed. They know that the love they have for that person is without a shred of doubt, absolutely real.
So rather than staring into the emptiness of the ‘Chasm of Grief’, each time you immerse yourself in the happy memories you once shared with the person you have lost, instead of the cold, lonely, emptiness of loss, you feel the strength of the love you shared with this person.
And you know what? The love you are feeling, as you remember your loved one, is just as strong as when they were physically here with you. You see, love is unbroken by death or by distance. It remains intact and even has the ability to continue to evolve and grow stronger.
Love is so immensely powerful that when you recall those happy memories, it is as if someone is physically surrounding you in their warm embrace. When you relive the love you share with your loved one, rather than recalling the loss, the love begins to pour into the void of emptiness left by grief, over time gradually replacing the cold, empty, darkness of loss, with the warmth and light of love.
Unlike the emptiness of the ‘Chasm of Grief’, love is very much alive. As long as your love lives on, your loved one lives on with you.
Love transcends death; it is the bridge that connects us, an unbreakable bond. The love you are feeling right now as you remember them, that love IS your loved one. Through your darkest hours, they were embracing you all along with their love... holding you, comforting you, and living on in your heart.
Through love, we live forever...
...because love NEVER dies.
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