A lot of people lost someone, or several someones, dear to them in 2022. It was the year my dad’s journey with Alzheimer’s came to an end. And if you’d been touched by that or any other such long-lasting, debilitating disease you know there’s a certain amount of relief on the other side of it. To know your loved one no longer is encased in something no one would willingly choose for themself, no longer lost from themself, is to experience wave after wave of relief right there in the middle of grief.
|Even after the thread of a story |
was impossible to hold onto,
he still loved to read
|One of my favorites from |
the baby days of Beatrix
I lost my mother to a long-lasting, debilitating disease twenty-six years ago at age twenty-one. (yes, yes, do the math: I either look young or old for my age depending on how much sleep I’ve been allowed lately). And that grief experience also came with relief but I didn’t have any of the right tools to be okay with that relief. I only felt guilty and super conflicted about it. This time around I knew to expect it, and I’ve even embraced it as the gift that it is.
One of the patterns I saw emerge in my Great Integration reading was a whole new way to navigate grief.
The wide array of tools I now have for navigating my dad-grief is beautiful. It has made it an entirely different experience. I had dear people in my life when my mom died, but no peers who had experienced what I had. I was terrified of therapy then (I thought “they” would try to brainwash me). I had a faith that only held about ten percent of what I needed at the time and didn’t have a safe space to bring my deep sense of betrayal, anger, or need for a whole new way to orient myself. Needless to say that meant that the very natural grief transposed into a whole lot of loneliness and suffering that I now know doesn’t have to be an inherent side effect of grief.
This time around I had the therapist I’ve known for more than a decade, a slew of peer coaches from my coach certification program, fantastic, grounding friends who’ve also navigated parent-loss, countless internal tools for being honest with myself, make space for myself in however grief needed to show up, and less fear of the experience of sorrow.
I learned so much along the way about getting more comfortable with the presence of sorrow. Of anxiety. Of anger. Basically, all the big scary “bad” feelings. I’m so far from perfect about this, and my toddler’s big feelings challenge me on the daily, But! I’ve realized how important JOY is to me, and that it is only able to be in my life in a long-lasting, life-giving way when I also allow for sorrow.
So this grieving season I’ve integrated both into the wider experience of myself. I’ve invited a lot of intentional joy in, knowing it will bring its rather sloppy, awkward cousin, Sorrow too. And it’s a relief to have both on the journey. It’s a relief to let myself feel all the feelings and know they will shift and see them as a form of connection to the people I’ve loved who are no longer physically present in my life.