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On Grief and Growth

(Warning – possible triggers)

Today is my youngest daughter's birthday - she would have been 19 today, freshly graduated from high school, figuring out life as she moves into adulthood. It's hard to believe it's been so long since she was born and passed... I was thinking this morning, that this time 10 years ago, I still struggled to get out of bed on the 12th, that facing the day and *gulp* talking to people was sometimes more than I could handle. I took this day off of work many times for my mental health, to wallow in my grief and hide from the world.

Looking back, I find it was important to allow myself to sit with my feelings and actually feel them - avoiding the feelings hurt so much more than allowing them through... although I did have to learn that the hard way.  I also learned that completely immersing myself in the feelings without a way out was difficult. My dad would tell me all the time it was okay to be sad but not to stay there... and that is so much harder than it sounds. Getting all into my feels meant I wasn’t always around mentally for others who needed me at that time, but trying to “buck up” and keep moving whether I felt like it or not meant I wasn’t there for me either. ‘Fake it til you make it’ works on some occasions, but not always.

19 years later, it's easier to get out of bed and face the day. I can look back now and see that it took an awful long time to figure out all the things, to allow the grief to be what it is without getting stuck in it, and to face the fact that life changes all the time – we can either roll with the punches or stand still and take the beating. Grief is a mixture of a lot of things – anger, fear, love, concern, loss, and possibly even shame, guilt, and a lack of self-confidence. It’s a lack of something we hold dear in our lives, and we don’t know how to fill the gap. Some attempt to fill it with alcohol or drugs, or jump into filling their plates so full there’s no time to think, or collapse into themselves and forget how to fully live life. I tried almost all of those things (sometimes all at the same time), and I’ll tell you they didn’t work for me. Avoidance is probably the worst part of grief – running away doesn’t solve anything, they say.

During those years of ups and downs, I had to learn to forgive myself for losing her, for not being able to protect her like a mother should, for not remembering that we can’t control everything. Recently, a dear lady told me that sometimes we may need to forgive those who have passed for leaving us as well. That hit harder than I thought it would… There is so much truth to those words though – grief can also hide a feeling of betrayal. Through no fault of their own, it was time to leave this Earth (or in some cases, just our presence) and sometimes we don’t have an explanation or a chance to say goodbye…. It is okay to feel hurt at their absence even though we learn as we’re raised not to “speak or think ill of the dead”.

Her passing hit hard and it changed me and my family's lives in ways that we could not explain, but we are still surviving.  The grief is still there but it's not all consuming, and it’s so much easier now to talk about her without worrying about seeing that look in people's eyes - the one that "feels like" pity and sorrow without empathy (too many people run from death, in my opinion, but that's a story for another time). I “know” that our loved ones are never far away even in death, and I “know” that I can still speak to her in my heart. That knowledge, 19 years ago, didn’t take away the heaviness I felt in my arms when I couldn’t hold her, or the nights of lost sleep listening for a baby snore that wasn’t there, or the years of seeing her grow in my mind’s eye but not in this reality. However, that knowledge did help me grow and learn how to move through life differently – I’m not who I was before and I’m learning how to be okay with who I am now. Many times, I find knowing how to ‘just be’ and putting it into practice are two very different things, and we do the best we can with what we have until we can put ourselves right again.

This year, with the help of some wonderful friends and energy healers, I learned how to take down my walls – the metaphysical ones we build to keep ourselves “safe”, that keep us in and others out, that in some cases restrict our energy flow / life force … the ones that have been in place for 19 years now and were very thick and well-fortified. Don’t get me wrong – I struggled! It was so much easier than I thought it would be to just let them fall and taking them down felt amazing at first!! After a while, I panicked and tried to put them back…. Only to find that each type of wall I tried to put up only served to restrict me and bring up questions I didn’t know the answers to. Many times over the last few months I’d put up a new wall, struggle with myself, take it back down and start over, and I believe I’ve finally come to the point where I’m okay without them. I actually feel “safer” without them, and I’m finally allowing myself to come back to me! The questions are still there though – “How can I be wholly myself if I’m hiding in the dark – and do I really want to hide?” “How can I let myself out and not be completely vulnerable – but what’s wrong with being vulnerable anyway?” And part of me is observing and wondering, “Miria… why did it take 19 years to get to this point!?” (I can hear my Dad and Grandpa in my head, telling me that all things happen when it’s time for them to happen, to have patience and understanding and still work towards my goals without forcing things….)

I know I’m rambling a bit, welcome to my world lol, but if you’re still with me.. the moral is that we learn and grow, and sometimes we hit a wall and fall down, and sometimes we forget how to get back up. We all manifest all kinds of things to supplement our reality while we’re on the ground – victim mentality, depression, anxiety, chemical dependency, co-dependency, diversions and distractions, physical pains and diseases…. all kinds of things. We seek outside of ourselves for answers we already have but think of as too painful to examine closely by ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – I know I still have a long road ahead in overcoming some of the obstacles I’ve placed for myself as these changes don’t happen overnight…. AND having someone who can help you see your own answers and hold space for you is priceless…

However, the first step is deciding we WANT to make the changes before they will happen. Sometimes, we truly feel the despair in the saying “one step forward, two steps back” and wonder if we’ll ever make it out to see the light again. It’s so easy to say “this is what I WANT” and in the back of your mind still have the “but what if…” doubts. What if I step out of the dark and am not well received? What if I allow myself to feel and get hurt…again? I want to be 'here'…but 'this' or 'this' or 'this' could happen…

But what if we flip the script? What if we step out of the dark and the light is so beautiful that we can’t help but sit in wonder? What if we find we are actually comfortable in and with our Selves and can allow grace in our lives? What if our community finds us once we remember who we are? What if we learn that everyone is on their own road and another’s viewpoint on life doesn’t necessarily mean we will get hurt? What if we learn new perspectives and grow beyond our perceived potential? What if we shed all the crap we placed on our Selves that makes us ‘less than’ whole?

I know it’s not that easy - we will move forward and learn new things, bump into another obstacle and learn there is more for us to process and release, and move forward again. Sometimes it feels like two steps back or that the cycle is never ending, but it is growth! The darkness has just as much (or more!) to offer us as the light, but we can’t dwell in one or the other forever. And sometimes it takes us decades to learn our lessons….

I can say now, 19 years later, that I am grateful for the things I’ve learned since her passing. There are regrets, to be sure… things I would change if I could go back knowing what I know now, and I definitely would have tried to make it a shorter trip… I know I can’t change the past but at least I can change my perspective of it.  And starting today, I plan to live the next 19 years more fully - with grace, patience, and deeper understanding for my Self even when I fall. I’m sure I’ll still have memory lapses for a little while, and I know there’s still more to learn, and I know that learning who I am ‘again’ may take time, but I’m okay with all of that. <3

So, as we move further into the dark half of the year with the holidays looming before us, this is a reminder to be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to feel all the feelings and try not to get lost in them. Please remember you are never alone – there is always someone out there who can empathize and / or just listen and hold space for you. Keep in mind that the roads we choose are not always the easiest to walk on, but the trip is worth it. And if you fall, lay there for a while if need be… please don’t forget to get back up eventually. I am ready to give you a hand up. <3 I see you and I love you, whoever you are or choose to be. <3

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