Grieving and living
Grief can take so many different forms and shapes, affecting our feelings and impacting our senses in ways we could never have imagined before we found ourselves in this new place of bereavement. Clients often ask me if there is a ‘right’ way to grieve? Like the joy and love we have shared, our grief is unique to us and the one we have lost: there are no rights and wrongs. Perhaps it is more about a balancing act, between loss and love, grieving and living. Honouring the memories, and it being OK.
And maybe there can be ‘good’ grief? My friend, David Hepple has kindly given me permission to share with you his thoughts, should it resonate with you and help you to see your way forward. He first posted this on 14th February.
With apologies for the pun, I wonder if there is such a thing as good grief.
My beautiful wife, Dany Lee, died three years ago on this day, and so began my journey into grief. During this time, I have received some excellent counsel, both from professional therapists and friendly soothsayers.
I have read through many models of grief, some more recognisable to me than others. But three years on my true learning on the subject still amounts to very little. Life goes on, of that there is no doubt. Happiness is possible, and often present in thought or deed. However, the ever-present is the sadness, the emptiness, that according to one model, must be ‘accommodated’.
I suppose like most concepts, grief is a relative term, so there must be a good way of grieving, or at least a better way. For what it’s worth, and its worth may only be significant to me, this is my model of good grief:
We move through time in one direction. I imagine I’m travelling through time on a train, with a look-out platform at the front and the same at the rear.
When I’m grieving my instinctive desire is to sit at the back of the train and peer longingly at the increasingly distant past that I wish to evoke. This is my preferred option because however distant these memories may be, I can never be closer to them than at the back of this train.
Of course, I am still moving forward with the train, but my focus is only on what has gone. In this place it has become ever more apparent to me that each moment in the present is only experienced as the past. Sitting at the back of the train means that I cannot anticipate an approaching event, or become intrigued by what lies ahead or prepare for its arrival. Not only do I struggle to perceive the past, I also fail to witness the full glory of the multi-dimensional present or of the immediate future.
So instead, what if I sit at the front of this imaginary train? Travelling through time with all senses alerted to what is on the horizon and being available to what each new moment may bring. There is merit in this alternative, but what of my longing for the past?
I believe in answering this conundrum, lies the secret to good grief. That my past is a large part of my present, it is within me. More than anything else, it was my life with Dany Lee that now defines who I am. I will carry that with me. I will sit at the front of my train, and I will take all of my thoughts and feelings pertaining to former adventures along for the ride. I will take it all in and remember it vividly. Because if I ever have the opportunity to tell Dany Lee how the rest of my journey unfolded, I want that to be a most exciting tale.
If you are looking for a counsellor to help you with bereavement, you can contact me or look at the BACP website:
Other sources of information include the NHS: