“You’ll be okay.” “Stay strong.” “Be positive.”
When you’re in the midst of grief – whether from the loss of a loved one or the more invisible kind of loss that happens when you or your loved one receives a Parkinson’s diagnosis, people will often offer you what’s meant to be inspiring advice. But what I’ve learned from years of working directly with people experiencing loss of all kinds is that:
- Grief looks different in everyone – no one grieves the same way.
- There is no timeline to grief – your relationship to grief is ongoing. You may reach a point where, most days, your grief may feel manageable and other days it’ll have sharper edges than the day before.
While many people will want to “fix” your pain or rescue you from it (all with very good intentions), the best medicine we have is often acknowledgment – allowing someone to be in and process their pain.
As a social worker and grief educator, I’ve gotten to witness many individuals and families face loss – and when it’s the loss of health, it’s often an ambiguous loss. When living with a chronic disease, it’s about grieving an imagined future or facing a kind of loss that few people around you can truly understand. In other words, your grief may go unacknowledged and unvalidated. I am here to tell you: your grief is okay. It’s normal and your feelings are real. And one of the best ways to move through your grief is to be in it.
My work is built around the power of community – being able to safely and freely share what you’re feeling with others on a similar path is healing. It allows us to be witnessed in our grief. Not to be told to “move on” or “just be positive,” but to be heard. To realize you’re not alone in this. To be able to say “This hurts” without being talked out of it. Being acknowledged helps make things better even when they can’t be made right. Link: How do you help a grieving friend? – YouTube
Grief is not finite; there’s no test that says, “It’s over. I’m finished.” Loss teaches you to discover new normals. No matter how far along you are in a grief journey, I encourage you to find a support group or online community that can listen to you with tenderness and understanding. That can respond with a knowing nod – “I’ve been there, too.” “You’re not alone, you have support.”
There will be beautiful days where you feel the metaphorical sun on your cheek but, when grief’s edges are sharper, pause and be in it. Allow yourself to feel. And find a community who has been there too, who will see you and walk alongside you.