This week, we will talk about grief. It’s a difficult subject. Most Osteopathic Doctors will tell you that grief can lead to multiple physical and emotional issues. DOs treat the mind, body, and spirit, and boy oh boy, does grief fit into all of those categories.
When we think of grief, we tend to think of death, but grief can come in many forms. The grief we are going to talk about today isn’t the kind you experience after losing a loved one, but it’s genuine grief all the same.
Have you ever lost a job that you thought you would have for the rest of your life? Grief. Have you ever watched the last of your children go off to college? Grief. Ever had to let your pet go after 15 years of friendship? Hardcore grief. Even something exciting like graduation from medical school can bring along some feelings of grief.
That heavy feeling starts to settle in your chest, and suddenly there it is, that little black cloud appears over your head. You step to the right…you step to the left…you look up. Yep. Still there. You may go over what happened, again and again, thinking to yourself, “if only I had done this differently” or “maybe they will move home when they’re done with college“.
Our friends and family give us well-intentioned advice. “You need to get over it“. Really? Says who? When people tell others to “get over it“, what they are really saying is, “I’m uncomfortable with how this is affecting you“. It has nothing to do with the person who is grieving, it’s all about the person who is watching you grieve. Grief isn’t like a head cold that you give enough time and attention to, and it will go away.
Others will tell you “time will heal…give it time…“. You wait and you wait, and it doesn’t feel any better today than it did on day one, and so you start to think maybe there’s something wrong. “Why can’t I feel better?”.
The one thing that many don’t question when discussing grief, is “what has changed?”. Why does grief grab onto us, and keep us in its stranglehold for so long? It’s easy to understand the loss portion of grief, but what else is there that keeps us stuck under that little black cloud?
Here’s a thought. Challenge yourself to think about your routine. We are all creatures of habit. We love to do things the same way, every day. We get up, we make some coffee, we read the paper, we take our shower, brush our teeth, get dressed, and go to work. We come home, we make dinner, we watch the news, we pet our dogs, we go to bed, only to get up and do it all over again.
Suddenly, that job is gone. Due to being fired, quitting, or simply retiring…suddenly our routine has been disrupted. We don’t like that. Our last child leaves for college…no more dinner time chats…no more driving them to practice or watching them perform in the choir. We don’t like that. The little poodle that used to greet us at the door when we would come home at night is suddenly not there anymore. We don’t like that. We don’t like that at all.
There they are, the constant reminders that we have experienced a loss. Our routine has been changed. We haven’t put anything into its place…and so we grieve, and we continue to grieve. Loss is so hard to accept, isn’t it? We spend our whole lives nurturing and loving our children, keeping them close, and then, one day, just like that, they are gone.
We give our jobs everything we have, our blood, sweat, and tears, and suddenly, there’s nothing left to give. We raise our pets up from babies, teach them to play fetch, give them our love, and then, one day, their eyes grow dim, and our eyes fill with tears. Our heart has been ripped out of our chest.
We spend years and years in school, studying to be a doctor, and now that’s all gone. It’s over. In one ceremony, simply gone.
“Just deal with it” doesn’t cut it. And no, we won’t just “get over it“, nor should we. What we can do, though, is slowly but surely, move forward. We can take that little piece of what we gave, incorporate it into our spirit, and move forward, taking it with us as we go.
Everything we gave to that job, that child, or that pet, we can blend into our mind, body, and spirit, and take those experiences on to our next adventure in life. We can volunteer our time teaching others what we have learned, or we can bring another pet into our lives in the memory of the last pet. We can nurture and grow, that which was planted in all our other experiences from our past.
When someone then says to us, “I see you’ve moved on“, we can smile and say, “no…we didn’t move on…but we’ve moved forward“, because life isn’t about what we don’t have…it’s about what we do have. Our mind, body, and spirits sustain us, in even the most painful times of our lives, and that which causes us to bend our knees also gives us the strength to keep going. The love and joy we gave, transforms into grief, which can then move forward and transform into love yet again.
Finding a new routine, and a new way of being can fill that loss that is causing us to grieve. It will never, ever be “the same“, but it will be “ok“. Sometimes that’s the best we can hope for, isn’t it? Keep moving forward, friends, keep moving forward.