“You’re mourning a person who can’t be in your life anymore. You need to let yourself grieve.”
When my best friend said this to me after my relationship had ended, it radically changed how I viewed the pain I was experiencing. Those episodes of hysterical weeping on the floor, whispering, “God…how can I hurt this much?”…I suddenly realized that they were normal; healthy even. I was processing both a great loss (the relationship) and a great gain (freedom from abuse).
If you’re anything like me, you would like to know that the full grieving process will come and go within, say…24 hours. 72 hours at the most. I love making lists and watching each item be checked off. I wanted to be able to check off the shock and denial, the anger, the depression. Turns out that’s not quite how our minds and emotions work after a real loss. Feelings can be deceptive and tricky things to navigate. We can’t all be Spock or Sherlock. It’s frustrating but there is no magical emotional band-aid. Humans were designed to be relational, feeling beings and grief is one way we experience our own humanity.
My inner perfectionist had to learn to 1) trust that God was in control of my pain and my healing and 2) not obsess over how slowly I thought I was healing. For example, it took months before I was ready to be angry…really angry. At first, I didn’t want to be angry at him. I loved him. If he had asked, I would have gone back to dating him (cue my father’s “over my dead body”). People would ask me, “How can you not be furious?” And I’d defend him. It was easier to be angry at myself. I assumed that meant I had just skipped a step.
The violent destruction of all existing pictures of the two of us proved that it had just been a delayed emotion.
Don’t worry if your experience isn’t the textbook definition of grief, if it doesn’t match someone else’s grief journey. You have a soul, not a paper binding. While the Five Stages of Grief are revelatory and helpful, everyone will grieve differently. Don’t worry if you’re still reeling from the shock of it all when people around you start asking, “Aren’t you over it yet?” Encourage yourself by thinking through what good has come or will one day come out of what happened.
In any situation I find myself in, there are two promises that God made to His children in the Bible to which I cling to: He never allows me to experience something outside the strength He provides, and He is always orchestrating the events of my life, even the painful ones, for good. I’m never walking through life alone or unprotected.