Finding Resiliency in Grief
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone's death. "she was overcome with grief"
The past several years have been riddled with grief. The world has experienced more anger and loss than anything I think most of us would have ever been able to conceive. I certainly didn't think that the world would come to a complete stop and the only thing that would continue to thrive would be wildlife with the absence of humans.
Many people experienced deep loss during the pandemic - some of it was anticipated, someone who was already dying - or perhaps an ageing parent or grandparent who'd lived a long and full life - but so many people, so many families experienced deep and unimaginable loss when their loved ones succumbed to COVID or the complications of COVID. I personally experienced loss, when my beloved father passed away suddenly, not of COVID, but of other ailments. He was a loving and boisterous man - small in stature, but legendary in life. I've written a lot about him in the past year, shared many stories on his Facebook wall, and for the most part, grieved him with the deepest sense of purpose and love I could possibly embrace.
I write this blog the day before my birthday - a day we celebrated with great happiness for so many years - except for the past few. This is a year of solitude, but not the first. In fact, the past two years he'd been in hospital with his sicknesses, and in some ways, I think he helped prepare me for the inevitable day when I'd face my first birthday without him. (What a beautiful gesture - even in death, he still holds my hand and guides me.)
Grief is a fickle creature. It's something we all cope with and manage in different ways, and is specifically rooted within our beliefs, values and our ability to be resilient. For years leading into my father's passing, I knew it was coming. We always know when it's coming - it's an inevitable component of life. It's the end of the great beginning - what's the saying ... from the moment we're born, we begin to die? This is something my logical brain accepts, it's something I can rationalize - and because while sad, my father's passing wasn't tragic or emotionally charged, it made the grief easier to cope with. I've often said to my family, "Death isn't personal."
One of my clients (and very dear friends) lost her seemingly very healthy mother very suddenly and tragically; she was the first responder in trying to save her mother, which was incredibly difficult. The guttural grief in her voice when she called me for support to share the news was something I'll never forget. Her grief process was immeasurably deep. The time it took her to unwind and tease out the parts of herself that needed to be ironed out to cope with and understand the loss were lengthy and it was very messy at times. Her mother passed away in November 2017 and I remember spending four hours on the phone with her on December 24th, talking her down from the things that were floating behind her eyelids. She was fixated on topics, not issues that ran deep in her family. Broken relationships with her brother that her mother had been the glue to, difficulties with a family farming situation, the lack of a companion or partner to lean into, a grief-ridden, widowed father. She was still young (very early 30s) and was still learning the ropes of life. In some ways, she was experiencing arrested development because the foundation that she'd been standing on her whole life had one "Mason" - her mother.
When it comes to our resiliency, I often think about it as a foundational piece of being a productive person. When you are born, it's like you're given this perfect slab of concrete as your foundation. As we go through life, we have experiences and those experiences sometimes leave little (or huge) fractures within our foundation. Resiliency is taught and learned - someone becomes resilient with the investment of others; people who for all intents and purposes, show up like little "Masons" in our world to mend these little fractures and teach us how to work through problems, manage emotions, have difficult conversations and remain confident in ourselves and our decision making capability. When we lose the person who was our Mason - the one who paved the path and then mended our foundation, it can be traumatic and can leave a huge void in terms of who to turn to when the going gets tough.
I think about my Dad often. He was a spiritual man, but not one to subscribe to the Dogma of religion. He was honest, hardworking and didn't take life too seriously. He used to say things like, "Don't sweat the small stuff!" ... then he'd smirk and say, "Remember .... everything is small stuff.." And when I think about those little lessons, (and the big ones), it gives me a moment to pause and consider whether my Mason has actually left the building, or whether the legacy of who he is continues to provide the strength I need to be the person he always wanted me to be. He was a really great Mason - because when I consider the things he taught me, the repairs he made to my foundation, he really prepared me for this stage in my life. He gave me the ability to look in the rearview mirror and think: "WWDD?" (What Would Dad Do?) There's power in remembering the legacy and lessons of your Mason - that's what they lived to do. Give you the ability to cope and live life the way they wanted you to.
"This stage" is a hard one - I often joke that it's the reason people buy hot red sports cars and take grand vacations and blow their retirement fund. You're in a vice grip in your late 20's to early 50's. You have children (and possibly grandchildren) on the come up, ageing parents and in-laws, work commitments, retirement and university to save for ... and you still have to be able to cope and manage the day to day rat race of keeping up with the small stuff that fills our schedule .... in the midst of a pandemic and sometimes, in the face of grief.
If this is you - even if you feel alone, you're not. You're right where you need to be right now, treading the same water as so many others and this is a phase - kind of like the time you went goth in 1991 - it too shall pass. If you're grieving the loss of a loved one, a job or career, or colleagues - whatever your grief may look like, go back to your foundation, think about your best Mason, and dig in just a bit deeper to embrace the challenges of the day.
You've got this. It's not your first rodeo ... ❤
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