Grief, perhaps more than any other emotion, is dealt with in time. Not meaning that time heals grief, although for some it does. But rather that grief over the same incident will likely come up again and again.
I recently had a rather poignant experience with grief and have had numerous encounters with it again since the initial incident. Each time I needed to sit with grief and the ensuing emotions that came up for me. But the fact that grief kept coming up didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t working through my grief initially.
When emotions over the same incident come up, again and again, it sometimes means we aren’t working through the emotion properly. But here, it just meant that this incident had shaped me, I was going to keep encountering memories of it in various aspects and I would need to sit with the emotions that came up each time.
Grief is perhaps the hardest emotion for me to sit with, for it consumes me and weighs me down. But, each time I get myself to pull out a chair and sit with it, look it in the eye, I often find it is quite the mix of a multitude of emotions. Joy, sadness, gratitude, anger, wonder, despair, nostalgia, overwhelm, love, heartbreak, happiness.
I think part of why grief is overwhelming for me is because of the multitude of emotions it brings up, especially since some of them are contradictory. But, sitting with grief and learning its complexity has helped it get easier and easier to pull out the chair and sit down with it when I notice it arising. Grief has much to tell us if we listen to it. Some of it is hard and painful to hear, but other parts are joyful and heartwarming.
I do not say this to be overwhelming. I say this to tell you that it’s OK if grief needs you to sit with it for a while. It may take a while for you to unpack all your grief holds and grief does not have a timeline. Do not let people’s discomfort towards your grief make you feel like you are working through it wrong, taking too long or grieving incorrectly. Brene Brown says that grief takes as long as it takes.
Wherever you are on your journey with grief, when it arises next may you find it in you to sit with it. May you find curiosity in you that helps you look grief in the eyes and search for all the emotions it carries with it. And may you know that this emotion, heavy and consuming as it can be, just needs its time to have your attention, and it, too, like all other emotions, will swell back down and allow other emotions to take its place at your table.
Kylie Larson, MA, LPC