Conversations in Grief Blog: Your Grief is Enough
Your Grief is Enough
by Hilary Furnish
Have you ever exchanged gifts with someone and then felt embarrassed by the gift you gave? You decide to get something inexpensive, sentimental, or practical, and they shock you with the gift of your dreams. We often fill moments like these with reassurance and expressions of gratitude, but inside, it may still feel like we didn’t do enough. Giving a gift is an expression of love that is unmeasurable. Despite this, we compare and often convince ourselves that a grander display is a greater sign of affection.
This idea that the more demonstrative expression of love is evidence of what is inside can often follow us into grief. It usually comes with the notion that if I really loved my person, I would be undone with sorrow. That the tears will never stop, and I will forever be overcome with the agony of their absence. The perfect Hollywood-scripted mourner is who we may feel we need to be. In reality, the way we love a person affects our grief, but not in the way we might think. Yes, when we lose someone important, we will grieve, and that initial grief may be intense. However, we also may feel relief. Yes, relief. Watching a loved one die is an act of shared suffering. They suffer as their body declines, and we suffer as we watch and do our best to care for them. When their suffering ends, we may feel relief as part of our grief that their emotional, physical, and spiritual pain is over for them. We feel this not because we wanted them to die, but because we loved them and could no longer bear their suffering.
The grief we feel and how we express it is often in proportion to the relationship we had with our person. If they are at peace when they die, we say everything that we need to say, and if all we have left to do is miss them, our grief will reflect that. If it was a more challenging relationship, or if the disease or illness they suffered caused additional emotional pain, those aspects may also affect how we grieve. I often hear from the bereaved, “I haven’t cried yet, “or “I don’t know if I am doing this right.” To this, I respond with empathy and encourage them that however they are grieving is enough. Whether we cry when they take their final breath, are inconsolable, or feel a deep sense of relief, that expression of grief is enough. Your grief, whatever it looks like, is enough. Whether it is silent and still or loud and active, it is exactly the way you need to grieve for your person.
Loving and losing someone is one of the hardest things we face during our lifetimes. How we respond to that loss is deeply personal, and how we express that response reflects who we are and our relationship with them. That expression of grief is enough. Whether it fits into your expectations or the unwanted expectations of others, how you are grieving for your person is enough. It reflects your love for them, and it is just what you need to express how you feel about living in a world without them. Your grief is enough.