The Living Well of Grief

Aug 7, 2018 | Blog Articles

When life delivers us an unexpected diagnosis in ourselves or in someone we love or when a relationship we thought would last a lifetime suddenly ends,
when our dreams are shattered by the death of someone dear, we enter the bewildering landscape of grief.

We don’t get ‘over’ grief as if it were a surmountable obstacle. We can become more comfortable with our discomfort but there is no finite time for grief
as there is no finite time for love.

Grief can spring out of drawers and cupboards, off shelves, from photographs, waft to our nostrils upon a perfume, is precipitated by music, clutches at
our heart, hollows out our insides and plummets us to the depths. It is indeed a strange beast to know and understand, to embrace, digest and assimilate.

Our heart can feel like it’s breaking

The chemical consequences of grief create a powerful visceral reaction. Our heart can indeed feel like it’s breaking, we may feel vague or disoriented
and many people describe a sense of feeling ‘amputated’ – as if a part of them has been severed.

What helps

It can be very helpful to identify the behaviours, the environments and the things that we do or have in our lives that give us peace or that connect us
to the present moment. For some people solace can be found in the garden, by listening to music, in the company of friends and loved-ones, through
writing out our feelings or creating a special event or project in celebration of that person’s memory.

Activities that nurture us such as warm baths, eating well, massage or counselling can help us maintain a healthy perspective that acknowledges our pain
without overwhelming us. Scheduling time for ourselves to express our sadness, disbelief, anger or frustration can be more effective than it coming
out in less helpful reactive language or behaviours.

Finding pleasure after loss

Many people berate themselves for having a good time or for laughing and enjoying themselves when they are grieving. Some people think they must be in
denial or they feel guilty or mortified that they can find pleasure in anything after the dreadful pain of loss. Having fun or enjoying each other’s
company is not a sign that we miss a loved-one any the less. Holding onto the pain of grief as a way of staying connected to our loved-one deprives
us of the opportunity of integrating the experience in the knowledge that love never dies. The opposite of death is birth, not life. Life is indestructible,
life is eternal, love never dies.

Making meaning

If WE are to find peace after a loss, we will need to make meaning out of our loss as it doesn’t have ‘intrinsic’ meaning. Each one of us is able to make
meaning out of the traumas and tragedies that happen in our life. We can make it a terrible meaning – as in life is cruel, heartless, unfair, God’s
out to get us! – or we can make a better meaning out of awful situations by how we view it. Once someone dies, we need to find a way of incorporating
that loss into our lives if we are to find peace. In so doing we begin to find a way to
honour their
life by the way we choose to live ours.

For me, grief has taught me that every relationship is a treasure and to be cherished and every moment is precious to be spent fully living it.

Participants in our programs conducted by the Quest for Life Foundation find the shared company of others gives them an opportunity to find their individual
ways of honouring the impact of their loss and begin to make meaning of their experience. The programs are available to all in need of them and it’s
important to give ourselves the time and space to take on the changed reality of loss. Grief carves deeply into our being and forces us to explore
parts of ourselves that are often unfamiliar to us.

Quest for Life can help you work through and live with grief through our residential programs or our 1-day
program Living Mindfully: With Grief. By learning strategies and techniques to manage
your response to life’s events, you can regain your equilibrium and ease the aching void.

There is no healthy way around grief. By honouring our unique way of embracing grief and removing the pressure of other people’s – and our own – expectations
of how we should grieve, we can create a healing pathway for ourselves.

~ Petrea King