The final installment in this winter’s Permission to Grieve guest post series comes from my beloved friend and For the Love launch team sister Melinda Mattson, who shows us what grieving well actually looks like.
Permission to Grieve
What grieving well looks like
A few months after my mom died, my dear friend asked me how things were going.
I told her about staring up into the sky and wondering if my mom was looking back. I told her about times I laid my head down to sleep after a perfectly fine day and cried until my throat and head throbbed. I told her about reflecting on our relationship and wishing there had been so much more.
My wise friend, a therapist by profession and counselor by design said, “This is what grieving well looks like.”
She told me that feeling this myriad of emotion and pain was not only okay, I was also doing it well. And just like that, she gave me the gift I didn’t know that I wanted or needed— she gave me permission to grieve.
We’ve all heard of Kubler Ross’s stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance but I don’t think any of us fully understands what they look like until we walk through them ourselves.
What I learned is that they don’t line up like obstacles on a course where we move one to the next after completing the previous stage. We’ll bounce from the first to the last and back to the middle and scramble in all manner of order for as long as our heart needs to and likely the whole of our life. The paths and routes through these stages are as varied as all the individuals in the world.
If you find yourself in the midst of grief, I am so sorry. I wish you hadn’t lost someone from your life. Though I have experienced loss, too, I don’t know everything you’ve encountered along your trail. Perhaps even those closest to you don’t either.
Grief can feel isolating. Even if you are surrounded by loved ones trekking through grief of the same person you are, their passage may look vastly different from yours. As one on a similar expedition, I warmly encourage you, no matter how arduous the course feels, keep going. Amble through the pain and the sadness and the longing, and be gracious with yourself every step of the way.
Though I hope you are surrounded by others cheering you along, this is one journey you have to make alone. Though it may be the steepest hill you’ve ever climbed, the view from the summit is worth the effort.
Be encouraged to know that though it may feel like you are walking in circles and returning to the same place over and over again, you really are getting somewhere.
This is what grieving well looks like.
It is not something to get through and there’s no finish line to cross –but that is actually the good news. We see things along the path we never would have noticed had grief not sent us on this expedition. Though it’s a course we never would have chosen, the perspective we gain as we travel really is worth the effort.
Grief steals. We know this. It only shows up when something is lost or taken from us but the sweet surprise is that it can also give some precious gifts.
Losing my mom gave me a new-found appreciation for God’s presence in the brevity of my life. I drink deeply of the best of life now.
I sense the holy all around me. I stop. I listen. I savor the moments.
I have found that, though the pain is still sometimes raw and hard, feeling it means I am breathing in the richest parts of life. Experiencing depth of sentiment is the very best of it and where authentic livelihood happens – where I hope all of us will be as we grieve well.
Melinda is a wife and mom of two girls in San Antonio, Texas.
She loves hard laughter, hot carbs, ice-cold martinis, and life-long friends. She’s also crazy about kindness and Jesus and is so glad they’re meant to come as a package deal. She aims to embrace both with equal fervor.
You can read more of her beautiful words at www.melindamattson.com.