When we speak about endings, especially relationship ending, we tend to encourage ourselves and others to 'move on'. But what part of the experience is meant to be moved on from?
Back in February, I had been having dreams about my relationship. The one that ended about six months ago now. One morning, I woke up from a particularly vivid one, and I felt like crying.
I had thought I was passed this. Passed the point of revisiting a lost reality in dream space. Passed crying about love that isn't mine anymore. I really did. I thought my grief wasn't going to be painful anymore.
Like any lesson, though, it will come around again until you learn it fully.
I had heard from a lot of people and many podcast hosts who have had direct experience with relationship ending that grief is a multi-stage process that often brings the experience full circle, more than once. I thought it was interesting, but I felt distanced from it, like my process was somehow different. I thought it wouldn't happen to me. I felt pretty sure of it.
I was wrong.
The truth, undeniably, is that grief comes around more than once for everyone. It is not a linear process to work through. It does not operate under logic, or in a way that says a certain amount of time will assuage it. That is simply not how it works. And as of a few months ago, I know that truth in a very deep way and called it home.
My grief, while it hadn't left me entirely, it was just in a different stage, had returned me to a sad feeling of loss all over again. No, it didn't feel like the hours after the break up. But I didn't feel like I was more than a few inches from tears when I thought about what was no longer in my life anymore, either.
In fact, I had cried a lot over the few days that followed. I read over the journal entry that I wrote about our Closing Ceremony, and tears were in free flow. It took no effort to imagine myself sitting there with him, in a space I knew so intimately, hearing such beautiful words about myself and about our relationship and all the gifts we gave each other.
And then suddenly, it's a Thursday night and I'm sitting on the couch next to him, listening to Jason Isbell's 'Southeastern' album on vinyl. I can still hear exactly the way it sounded through the speakers.
The memories were able to flow through for me for as long as I would allow them to. And they made me feel the loss all over again. How could they not? It was a beautiful relationship between two very wonderful and loving human beings.
But it also showed me that I was letting the grief and the loss have their say and was continuing to engage in the process.
When grief comes around strongly again, it means that it is active and being worked through. This is a positive thing. It is really hard because it seems to come out of nowhere. But that is the nature of grief. That is why experiencing it is so profound.
When grief, loss and sadness come up for me, they are welcomed. I pause whatever I am doing to feel it wash over me and take me along down the flow of the river. It is not being buried, I am not turning away from it. I am not disappointed or annoyed with myself for "not being further along by now". My experience is fully my own, and there are no metrics to measure it by.
It just simply is. And by allowing it, I allow space for myself, too.
If you are sitting in a grief space, especially now as realities worldwide continue to crumble and shift, just know that you are so seen and understood. I'm there with you, wherever you may be. And we are in this together. Grief can be isolating, but it does not have to be that way. It is a universal experience that touches us all at some point, and more than once.
Grief Comes Around More than Once
We are emotional beings, and grief is a very heavy, complex emotion. It is no wonder, then, that it takes up a lot of time and space in order to be given its full dues. Especially when we are grieving the loss of something so beautiful and so powerful, such as a love that has left our lives, we need to be extra kind and patient and compassionate with ourselves.
When we take time to integrate grief and loss, we are also taking time to learn from it. What is our grief here to teach us? What part of ourselves is hurting most in this moment?
Grief is also a physical experience as well. Parts of our physical and energetic bodies will feel the loss more strongly than others, depending on the day and time.
Who are we becoming as we work through and rise from our broken open state of loss and grief? These are not questions that can receive a static answer. They evolve as we work through our process. That is why it so important to encourage ourselves to keep our grief dynamic and welcome it as part of our lives for now.
It will heal in time and space. I am healing, I am learning, I am growing. And I am allowing.
And if I need to cry and sit in the space that is now open from a new loss, then I do that. Because it is welcome. It is ok to do that. Crying is a form of release. Let it be so.
It is human conditioning to not want to sit in a place of discomfort for any length of time; whether that means not sitting next to someone on the train who smells strongly, rushing through a run-in with a former friend or colleague, or quickly eating the part of the dinner that is least appetizing. Escaping discomfort is something we, especially in the West, have grown, well, perfectly comfortable with.
So it is no surprise that we have coined a phrase that embodies the practice of skipping the discomfort and, yes, moving on from it.
The problem is, though, when we don't take the time to sit with our emotions, however many there are and however uncomfortable they may be, we ultimately do not give ourselves our best shot at healing and, from that healing, a better way forward. When we stick to the pattern of 'moving on', we lose out on the ability to create something different for ourselves.
Instead of 'moving on' from it and repeating patterns, when we take the time to move through a loss, like a break up, or loss of dreams or of reality, we are offering ourselves