Queuing in the fish and chip shop in the high street of the small Scottish town where I live, I scowled at a man ahead of me in the queue. He was overweight, fiddling with his cigarette packet, and aged about mid-50s. What was wrong with that?
Everything! How dare HE be alive, he who was eating food that is bad for you, was smoking and overweight, who was so obviously a waste of space – and my husband, who had made such a contribution to the world, was dead? It was NOT FAIR! I had to leave the fish and chip shop without my supper. I just wanted to rage and rage at the world.
Anger and rage are just a couple of the emotions that come under the heading of grief. Fear, anxiety, and guilt are amongst the many others. Indeed, conflicting emotions are often the order of the day while grieving.
For instance, you may on the one hand be relieved your loved one is out of pain, but also be furious they got ill or had an accident in the first place. You might be terrified about how you are going to cope now. But you might also feel proud of yourself when you have accomplished something you have never done before. You might feel lonely without your loved one, and at the same time enjoy the freedom that has inadvertently come your way.
If it’s not death of a person you are dealing with, but a different kind of loss, then you are still likely to have conflicting feelings.
Understanding the many different forms in which grief shows up is important if you want to discover the gift that your grief may have for you. One way to find that gift is to soften any judgment you have about what you are feeling at any given moment.
When judgment softens, space is created for the feelings to be felt. The fear of feeling these is often worse than the actual feeling. When feelings are felt, they can leave again as quickly as they came. Think of a small child, and the huge amount of differing emotions they go through, within even just a day. That’s because they don’t get stuck. If you’ve lost a loved one, you may well be feeling stuck; but you don’t have to.
That day in the fish and chip shop I was honouring myself by acknowledging the rage and letting it be there, even if I did have to go without my supper.
Honouring your feelings, whatever they are, is vital to being able to discover the gift that is hidden in your grief.
Yes, there will be a gift. That idea may be abhorrent to you, or maybe you instinctively know that it’s true, or anything in between. What I discovered were many gifts, actually. But they initially came from being willing to feel what feelings had come knocking at my door.