Conversations in Grief Blog: "Embrace Your Pain"
Embrace Your Pain
By Laura Wessels
As our grief support group members did their weekly check-in, several reported that their churches had celebrated All Saints’ Day by naming their loved ones who had died. As they shared, they wept. And they felt grateful for the public support and the public remembering of their people.
Another participant, grieving for her husband, shared her plans to honor their wedding anniversary. At their wedding, guests had signed a plate instead of a guest book, and this plate was on display in her home. She decided to use the plate idea again. She planned to purchase a plate, write a message to her husband on the plate about how she continues to love him and miss him, and then she was going to break the plate and glue the pieces back together to represent her grief.
A woman was preparing for her first holiday season without her husband. She created a small memory tree that she decorated with cardinals and small framed pictures of the people in her life who have died, not only her husband but other family members and friends as well.
The stories I’ve shared have one thing in common: the bereaved are choosing to embrace their pain. Our instinct is to reject or resist pain. When we feel physical pain, we have been taught to medicate the pain or do something to make the pain stop. But the key to dealing with emotional pain, such as the pain of grief, is to receive the pain, to hear the pain. As Megan Devine, author of It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, explains, “It deserves to be heard.”
The grievers are leaning into their pain to hear what it has to say. They are listening to their grief and honoring their pain and the memory of their loved ones.
During the holiday season, move your grief and make it the centerpiece of your holiday table. I offer three A’s for embracing your pain: Become aware of how you are feeling. Accept whatever you are feeling. Acknowledge your feelings by naming and expressing them.
When you choose to resist your pain or when you choose to contain your grief, you will discover that you are overloaded. Imagine filling a cup of coffee to the brim and then you keep on pouring. The liquid is spilling over the sides, pooling and dripping everywhere. The grief stays inside, but what spills out is you, your best self. And your grief remains inside, possibly burying you.
A bereaved wife shared with me that she was dreading spreading her husband’s ashes. I invited her to hear her apprehension. She learned that she was comforted by his presence in the ashes, and she would be sad to let them go, too. She began wondering and imagining what it would be like to let his cremains go. She embraced her pain of sadness, recognizing that this would be her final physical separation from him.
I invite you to consider changing your response to the pain of your grief. Give your grief its due. Breathe in the pain of who and what you have lost. Breathe out the ways you continue to love and remember them. Hold on to yourself while you hold on to the one you love.
How can you embrace your pain this holiday season?