When Grief Returns

Wouldn’t it be nice if grief were linear? If it could start at A and end (permanently) at Z?

But grief doesn’t work that way. Working through grief is like peeling away layers of an onion. Some of the layers are really sticky and, most of the time, you’re crying while you do it.

YOU’D THINK 9 YEARS WOULD BE LONG ENOUGH

It’s been almost 10 years since my husband died. I thought I’d worked through every emotion there was. I spent three years in bereavement counseling, another year getting my Certified Grief Recovery Specialist® training and certification, and then the next five leading retreats for widows, and writing a book.

BUT IT CIRCLES BACK

I cried just the other day. Grief hitch-hiked a ride with my son during a discussion about what he plans to take with him when he leaves for medical school next fall. When we opened his closet I gasped for air because starring back at me was the gorgeous framed black and white wall portrait of me and his Dad, taken the year we were married. We were both in leather jackets, leaning against a white marble wall at the art museum, clearly in love. That picture broke my heart open again.

AND YOU HAVE TO BREATHE THROUGH IT

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t drowning underwater again like I was in the beginning. I’ve done a lot of healing! Because I’ve done my work with my grief, I knew the only way to get over this moment was to move through it and breathe into the memory. So I made eye contact with that younger me and pulled the love on his face and mine deep into my heart, where I’ll keep it as a treasure. I won’t put the wall portrait back up, it’s not helpful to endlessly sit with reminders of the past.

TREASURE THE MEMORY AND LET GO OF THE HURT

I’ve found that treasuring the memories that are stored in my grief is a key strategy for healthy recovery and happiness. There are lots and lots of memories after twenty-three years of marriage and I’m lucky that most of them are happy ones. Knowing that I was that deeply loved by him helps me remember to love myself more than I often remember to.

What helps you when grief circles back?

Check out my new book: Navigating Loss: A Survival Guide

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