“He that conceals his grief finds no remedy for it.” ~Turkish proverb

The grief and pain of loss are so powerful because, in death, we assume no conclusion can ever be reached.

In our minds, we rationalize that Death has concluded a chapter in our lives that can’t ever be revisited, revised or truly made better.

Because the person we cared for and loved so much is gone, we reason that we’ll thus be unable to ever rectify the issues that once persisted between us — however big or small they might have seemed. When we understand the loss of a loved one to be so final, so conclusive, so forever and thus so unchangeable, we can naturally understand how the grief and pain that result from losing someone can persist for many, many years.

These are the thoughts that came to mind when a reader, whom we’ll call Mathias, asked how he can handle the grief in his heart that has persisted for more than a dozen long years:

“How to handle grief. Grief that has persisted for 13 years… Thanks. If you can even help me at all. It was the loss of my Father…”

How can we come to unburden ourselves from such longstanding pain that has resulted from loss? What steps do we take? Is it even possible for such suffering to subside or completely disappear if the person who we loved is gone forever?

Unburdening the Grief and Pain of Loss

“Grief” is defined as an intense sorrow that has resulted from an especially traumatic event, like death. And within that broad definition are layers and layers of possible underlying and contributing causes:

  • Feeling guilty about what happened (“What could I have done differently? Why didn’t I?”).
  • Refusing or struggling to accept the past; an inability to live in the present; a desire to somehow go back in time and get a chance to it all over again.
  • Subconsciously holding onto grief as sort of a desperate bridge to “what once was” — a reminder of the relationship with a loved one we have lost and so dearly miss.

Whatever underlying factors have fed this longstanding grief, a two-pronged effort strikes me as a strong starting point that, in due time, can unburden us from the past; liberate us to the future; and remedy old wounds that have yet to heal.

This one’s for you, Mathias.

1. FORGIVE (Forgive Him/Her, Forgive Yourself)

The burden of severe, longstanding grief must first be treated with a heavy and prolonged dose of forgiveness. Forgiveness is key in so many aspects of life — it is paramount to living healthily, happily and balanced. The burden of severe sorrow prevents us from living fully in the present moment and hinders us from moving forward toward a better tomorrow: forgiveness liberates us from the past.

  • Our minds work in quiet ways we seldom notice because of their clandestine method of operating: “behind the scenes,” deeply in our subconscious.
  • Being able to forgive the one we have lost — and, especially, being able to forgive ourselves — bubbles the subconscious to the forefront of our minds and allows us to confront it.
  • Forgiveness relieves the tension, unburdens the sorrow, and begins to release the heavy pressure we have placed upon ourselves for so long.

Forgive any wrongdoing that has been done unto you by the one that you’ve lost. Forgive any wrongdoing that you did, yourself. Forgive yourself of what you think you could have or should have done differently. The past cannot be changed, but wrongdoings of the past should not burden your present or future.

Regrets in life are merely mistakes from our pasts that we have yet to learn from — when we learn from our mistakes, the regret ceases to exist.

2. REVEAL (Share Your Pain; We All Suffer)

Containing our suffering — keeping our sorrow and pain and grief to ourselves — only manifests greater suffering by quietly reinforcing the false belief that we are alone and unique victims to our suffering. In reality, all human beings share suffering. No person is devoid of sadness, and no one has ever lived without experiencing suffering in some form. In essence, it’s as if we all share “one” suffering:

“We are each unique, but if more people shared their personal stories of suffering, we would realize truly how similar we all are.”

As the Turkish proverb above suggests, concealing our grief does little to make it subside. Privately holding our suffering within our heads and hearts burdens us and causes us to suffer for years on end. We keep our suffering to ourselves because we think that no one else wants to hear it, or deal with it, or help us with it, or be burdened by it themselves. Open up, be honest, be fearless, and understand that we all share the same suffering.

For Every End, a New Beginning

Remember how we started this exploration of grief: our understanding that grief and pain that come from loss are so powerful because, in death, we assume no decisive conclusion can ever be reached. Death impedes us from ever having closure.

Or does it? What if death isn’t the end — the final chapter and verse we all live to avoid and that haunts our cautious steps?

None of us can really say for sure. However, I have come to believe that Death is not the opposite of life. Death is the opposite of birth: an action, an occurrence, the alteration of life as we know it. Death is the exit from this world, and, perhaps, the entrance to a place beyond. From this action, our energy leaves our bodies in their physical forms and is taken up, resorbed in other forms and in greater ways. Our spirits carry on. Perhaps there is no definitive “end” — merely a new beginning.

And, if we could say for sure — or even if we only choose to imagine — that Death was not the “end” but a new beginning, Reason would no longer dictate that our relationship with our deceased loved one could never change. Then, our Belief, instead, would open our minds to new possibilities, and new opportunities, and new beginnings.

“Amidst the rush of worldly comings and goings, I observe how all endings become beginnings.” ~Lao Tsu

Flickr photo credit: maryno503

Whatever underlying factors have fed this longstanding grief, a two-step remedy strikes me as an immediate starting point that, in due time, can unburden us from the past; liberate ourselves to the future; and heal old wounds that have yet to close.