4 Things we can learn from grief
Posted by jodenton
23rd Mar 2021

Regardless of whether it occurs tragically and unexpectedly, or we’ve been preparing for it for months or even years, no-one is left unscathed by the feelings that any kind of loss brings to you and your family.

ImageofasadfacebyaSANEsupporterThe isolation, loneliness and emptiness can feel unbearable, overwhelming, isolating. And, for many people, it feels as though there is no possibility for a light at the end of the tunnel; for a day when we might feel better. But, as we know, whether it’s through our own experiences or those of people we know, time can heal almost any wound.

Whether it’s weeks, months or years, the pain that we feel when we grieve can and usually does subside. What is left can usually teach us a great deal about not only ourselves, but about life and the world around us.

Here are just some of the ways in which grief helps to change us over the course of time.

1. Compassion is key

Whether we’ve experienced grief ourselves or supported a grieving loved one, we understand that when a person is mourning the loss of someone they loved, there are few times in life when they will feel more vulnerable and more in need of compassion and patience. For those grieving for the first time or experiencing a life changing loss for the first time, you will be in need of support, comfort and above all, compassion.

Luckily, for most people, grief is not something that they are forced to bear on their own. When a loved one dies, shared family or friends will often be there to comfort, but to also alleviate the burden you may feel from keeping that loss to yourself. However, this can often cause tensions in families when each human being is unique and therefore, the ways in which we grieve will be equally as unique. In times of need, not only are we grateful for the support others show to us, but we also learn how to be compassionate in return, how to communicate in ways that try to de-escalate tensions and how to approach conversations with kindness and understanding.

More importantly, however, during a time of grief we not only learn how to show compassion towards others, but sooner or later, we are forced to learn how to be compassionate towards ourselves. Guilt is an emotion that is all too common during this time, especially in the early stages. Giving yourself space and time and being in tune with your own emotions is something that will be invaluable for your mental health, as well as helping to to try and move forward from the loss as best you can.

2. Gratitude for today

Most of us are likely guilty of constantly worrying about tomorrow, putting off things that we don’t want to do, or taking for granted that tomorrow is promised to us. But when someone we love is no longer there, suddenly our own view on our own mortality is forced to change. Perhaps it doesn’t happen immediately, but slowly over time, we learn to recognise that tomorrow is never promised and that the only change we can be sure to make in our life is today and to be grateful for that.

Losing someone, especially unexpectedly can be a jarring and life altering experience. The phrase ‘life is too short’ is not really a tired cliché to someone that has felt the emptiness of loss and the grief that follows. Because the truth is that we really are time short when it comes to our place in the world.

As painful as the grieving experience can be, it also offers us a chance to re-evaluate whether that argument with our friend was really worth holding a grudge over. What about that life change we’ve been putting off for so long for ‘another day’? There’s really no harsher reminder than grief to remind us that one day might never come. But rather than letting that idea plunge us into misery, we can choose to make the most of every moment; not through reckless or destructive behaviour, but through never taking our lives for granted and treating those around us with love each and every day.

3. Gaining a broader perspective for the future

Living in the moment is important. However, for some, this period of struggle can also help to refocus certain areas of your life that you may have been avoiding or were unsure of. In fact, sometimes the hardest part about grief is not the process of mourning or crying or the lack of sleep and the food you ate to try and feel better; it’s the process of moving on, of picking yourself back up and progressing your life without your loved one by your side. If first experiencing grief is all about living in the now, then living with grief is about looking to tomorrow.

Moving on can take many forms and everyone will do so at different speeds and in different ways. Some losses are ones that perhaps can never be truly recovered from, and that’s also okay. Grief is something that can fundamentally change us as people and alters the course of our life and our relationships, especially later in life as we lose people more and more important to us. And those fundamental losses can change and shape the way we think about our own future and what we want for the rest of our lives.

For some, imagining a future without our loved ones by our side can be the most difficult journey of all. But perhaps learning from them, taking examples and lessons from their own lives and applying them to our experiences is really the way in which they live within us. Things that seemed unimportant suddenly become priorities for us in a way they never did before we experienced loss and vice versa. But learning to live without your loved ones, whilst still letting their memory and legacy remain a part of your life is a key part of the process and for the rest of our lives.

4. Finding our inner strength

Without a doubt, grief and loss is one of the hardest things that we as human beings will be forced to face in our lifetime. However, as hard and sad as it is, it is something that every single one of us will be forced to face at some point in our lives. And in some way, that is the biggest lesson that grief teaches us; that loss is inevitable, that grief is something we must go through as part of the human experience and that no matter what, everyone who experiences it must come out the other end eventually.

However long we need to grieve and no matter how patient our family and friends are, life goes on for the rest of the world even as we feel miserable, lost and stuck in the moment. It’s a natural and frustrating feeling that is very easy to get lost in, to wallow in that misery that things will never feel better.

But on the other hand, once we find it in ourselves to become unstuck and once we start to take the steps to go back out into the world again and carry on with our lives, we realise that in a way, grief makes us strong. For all the hardship we endure and for all the pain it causes us, we somehow make it through and we’re able to carry on with our lives. It’s a strength that can only really come from having experienced this and it’s a strength that only grows the older we get. And if there’s the tiniest hint of positivity that we can gain from grieving, it’s that if we can get through grief, surely we can get through anything.

Image: SANE Supporter


This post was written by Joanna Denton of Hadaway & Denton funeral directors in Ashford, Kent - providing various funeral services with a warm, family-orientated touch.

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