Imagine yourself standing in a park in the center of a city.  There are hundreds of people around you, walking and talking and going about their day.   I grab a bullhorn and I shout as loud as I can “WE ARE LOOKING AT GRIEF COMPLETELY WRONG!”  I want to shout it because I need to get your attention!  This is REALLY important shit.

Are you listening?  Can we please have an honest discussion about grief?  I know it’s uncomfortable, but can you push your discomfort aside, just for a moment?  Thank you.

The way we look at grief as a society is COMPLETELY WRONG!  We collectively look at grief as an unfortunate event in our lives that we have to buck up and take when it happens to us.  We look at grief as a tragic event that we have deal with when it happens to us. We look at grief as a sentence to years of pain and misery.  We feel victimized, wronged, and betrayed by life.

We feel this way because we’ve been lying to ourselves.  We lie to ourselves because we don’t want to believe that the people we love WILL DIE.  We avoid it, we pretend it isn’t true, and we lie to ourselves. We refuse to think about it but when we do, we stuff our emotions and pray for the grief to dissipate so that we can get back to our lives.

If you think I am wrong, please tell me, but we need to have an honest discussion about death and grief.  If you’ve lost someone you love recently, you are now grieving.  You may be in avoidance or you may be scrambling to figure out how to get through it.  You may be wondering if the pain you feel is ever going to end.

If you aren’t actively grieving, I promise you that one day, someone very close to you WILL DIE.  How do I know?  Because grief is universal.  The people we love WILL die.  It’s unavoidable and it’s the truth.

Yes, I understand why we avoid it.  Let’s face it, talking and death and grief is tragic, uncomfortable and messy.  It makes sense that we avoid it like the plague.  But, what if we changed the conversation around grief and looked at grief differently?

What if we collectively acknowledged that death is inevitable (none of us will make it out alive).  What if we acknowledge that grief is also inevitable?   What if we were to shift our focus to what grief brings to us, rather than what death has taken away?  What if we focus on what our loved one’s life brought to us, the love we have in our hearts and the lessons that arise out of our grief?  What if grieving were viewed as an opportunity to love more deeply, to gain insight into how we continue to live our lives, and be grateful for what we have received from those we love?

My advice to you is this.  Let grief change you.  Focus on how you can turn tears of pain into tears of joy because you were fortunate enough to love someone so much that their absence leaves you feeling pain and sadness. Remind yourself every day, that you don’t have to be a victim to your grief.  You can choose to look at grief differently.  You can uncover what grieving means to you through self-awareness and self-discovery.  You can choose to speak openly about your grief and the ones you’ve loved and loss.  Embrace how they have enhanced your experience in life and acknowledge the lessons that grieving will present to you.  Share your story to give others the freedom to share their experience of grief.

Collectively we can change how we look at grief. We can learn how to grieve ourselves and how to help others who are grieving too.  You may be grieving but the truth is, that you deserve to be happy.  You deserve to find joy again.  It’s a process that takes time but you can heal more quickly if you choose to look at grief differently.

Love and healing,

Catherine McNulty