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Bereavement and Loss, and why we shouldn't listen to 'advice'

I was writing about bereavement, loss and grieving. I'd spent a lot of time writing this blog and when I went to upload it, the document was blank! Couldn't recover the document. Everything about the document was lost.

This document represented my ideas, experiences and thoughts on bereavement, loss and grieving. It contained quotes that I thought captured the experience. I thought it was a good article that might have helped people understand something of the process of loss.

Isn't it kind of ironic that when I decided to write a blog about loss, that I lost everything that I'd written????

Doesn't life present us sometimes with experiences that we'd rather not have, but that could be beneficial in the long run?

So, this is not going to be the original post that I'd written! But it's the 'here and now' one.

I came across a quote (I'm sorry that I don't know who to ascribe it to) that resonated with me.

'Grief is the bridge between past, present and future'.

A bridge is a way across to something that would otherwise be unreachable. A chasm, a mountain, a river. The bridge is a way to get from where I am to somewhere that I want to be but can’t reach.

The first step onto the bridge marks a leaving of where you’ve been, and a step to somewhere you’ve never been before. The step on and off mark both a leaving of something behind and venturing into something new.

This is sad, scary, anticipatory, regretful, exhilarating, terrifying, resisting, hopeless, empty, despairing, unending,

When we move forward in a new way, we have to leave something behind. Whether that’s a job, a person, a relationship, a talent, a physical skill.

That doesn’t mean that we have to lose connection with it, despite what older models of bereavement say about having to ‘move on’. Perhaps what we might do is relocate our loss in respect to our present. This is now, that was then.

When we experience a loss, it is all consuming at the time. Over time, other things intrude into that experience – we are captivated by the antics of a child or a pet, we see a sunset that fills us with awe and the beauty of nature, we laugh at a comedy on TV.

And then we’re consumed again, and this time we feel guilty for having experienced a bit of pleasure. And this process goes on and on, until one day we realise that we’re spending more time ‘here and now’ than ‘there and then’.

And this is often when someone feels scared. We think we might forget the person. Already it might be hard to conjure up what they look like, smell like, what their touch feels like, because they are no longer present and not always in our thoughts.

Yet, we don’t forget the things that we treasure. We still have access to the memories of experiences that we’ve enjoyed, and we don’t need to think about them 24/7 in order for them not to be forgotten. That’s the same for the people that we’ve lost. We'll always have memories.

Of course, that's not what we want, we want them to be here! We don't want to make them to a memory.

Everyone’s experience of bereavement and loss is different. It’s hard to hold onto this when 6 or 12 months, or even longer, down the line someone says to you ‘have you not got over that yet?’

I had experience of this as a 12yr old girl who had lost a hugely important person in my life and my family. It was about 3 months after his death and I was really excited to be performing in a stage musical. I was about to go on stage, and was consumed by sadness that he wasn’t going to see my performance. I was crying and my friend’s older sister who was 16yrs, asked me what was wrong. I told her, and her reply was ‘Well….. haven’t you got over that yet?’

Well…..of course the answer was ‘no!’, but at 12yrs I had no way of explaining that. And often even at 30, 40 or 70, we don’t have a way of explaining what we are experiencing.

I was left feeling that some how I wasn’t ‘doing things right’, that there was a way to do this that I clearly hadn’t grasped.

Everyone has an experience of loss that is their own, and unique. We go through a process that sometimes makes sense, sometimes is incomprehensible. Sometimes it’s familiar, sometimes alien. Most times it’s excruciatingly painful. Sometimes poignant and bitter-sweet. But every time – it’s yours. Your unique experience.

So, when people tell you that you should be in a particular stage in your grieving, you can know that there’s no such thing. We are where we are, and the process that we go through is our own. And no-one can tell us what our experience should be.

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