Love, Loss and Leaning into Letting Go
“Holiday host etiquette: If you’re inviting someone to your home and they’re grieving, be sure you’re inviting their grief to attend, too. It will be there, anyway.” Sarah Nannen
There are so many expectations around the holidays, and to be honest, I started to think there was something wrong with me.
I have sustained such profound losses in the past three-plus years, that some days I amaze myself that I can get out of bed. It hasn’t just been emotional – my physical being has been affected by the weight of this grief.
Ten years ago, when my dad died, one of my dear friends said, “The deep grief means the loss is profound.” I agreed then, and even more so now.
My experience with profound loss comes down to this: the deeper the love, the deeper the loss.My experience with profound loss comes down to this: the deeper the love, the deeper the loss. Click To Tweet
Loss can be anything that profoundly affects you – the loss of a loved one, the loss of a pet, the loss of health, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job. Because, whatever that loss is, you are now dealing with the loss of a lifestyle. Your life has been profoundly changed, and it most certainly doesn’t feel like it is a change for the best.
Out shopping the other day, I heard the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Christmas Canon,” which is set to the tune of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” The tsunami of grief hit me so fast, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Tears immediately ran down my face. In public. I couldn’t have stopped the tears if I tried, so I let them flow. I didn’t care if anyone saw me cry. My husband grabbed my arm, and all I could say was, “Sarah loved this song.” Processing Sarah’s death has been so difficult. Burying your 12-year-old granddaughter is so far out of the natural order of life.
For the past few days, I have been reflecting on grief and the holidays, circling back to Sarah Nannen’s post. Oh. the irony, that the author is named Sarah. And, ironically, it was two years ago today that I wrote the first blog post about my Sarah.
The expectations of the holidays are so counter to my grief. I have heard comments, such as, “It’s been two years,” and “life is for the living,” and “get back in the game,” and – well, anyone suffering a profound loss in any way has probably heard the same things.
I hear those things, and I then try to explain the deep connection that I have with Sarah, thinking, “maybe they will understand if they realize what I’ve lost.”
People don’t see that I am “back in the game.” It’s just that it is a now different game.
What I am learning on this healing journey of trauma and grief is letting go.
Letting go is such a catch-phrase in recovery, and I believe it is often misused and misunderstood. I thinking letting go is different for each individual.
For me, letting go is not a “one and done.” Letting go is a continual self-assessment of what is working for me and what is not.
Letting go is giving myself the grace to do what I need to do for me. If I need to sit out an event because I am not able to handle loud noise, or large crowds, or an over-stimulating environment, then I give myself the grace to do that – just sit it out. It’s not that I am afraid of crying in front of people, it is that my nervous system needs a break at this time. It needs to be handled gently and quietly.
It is not a rejection of others; it is a protection of me.
Letting go is also accepting that I am not the same person. It’s the understanding and acceptance that I can’t pick up the pieces of my life and just continue the way life was. That is really difficult. It’s also not a matter of “I can’t or won’t.” It is the fact that life drastically changed, and it will not be the same as it was. The hopes and dreams that died with the losses are real. So, letting go is accepting and realizing that my life will be different. The losses I have sustained have changed me. That doesn’t mean it’s “good or bad.” It just is what it is – I have changed because my life has changed.
Moving forward when there is a giant hole in your heart changes you. There’s no way it can’t. Letting go of what was, and accepting what is, are probably the hardest turning points of grief. And, that process takes time.
Letting go what others expect of you is just as difficult – if not more. We have so many expectations placed on us through society, culture, family systems, religion and career – and to me, it seems that just adds to the grief. It adds to the self-doubt and self-questioning of, “What’s wrong with me;” the feeling of “not being enough;” or the feeling of “being stuck in the grief.”
And – none of that is true.
We are all different. We all process trauma and grief differently. We have to honor each person’s journey in this muck. We have to hold space for them to navigate. We need to let go of how we think each person should wade through the messy grief process. We need to let go of judging others.
And, most importantly, we need to let go of how we think we should wade through our own messy grief process. We need to stop judging ourselves and start holding space for ourselves in our own hearts.
When that heart is ready to start wading back into the waters of its new life, the heart will know.
Wishing you the empowerment of letting go of expectations in your grief…
© Lynne Cobb – 2021
How are you handling grief, expectations and/or, letting go? Share your experience(s) in the comment section.