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Faith and Life: To get through grief, you must embrace it

August 22, 2012

I have had a season of grief.

There is grief, and then there is compounded grief. I have had compounded grief. I am not afraid to write that.

The details are not important; you can insert your own pain or memory of grief into this narrative. But I would like to take a moment to share what I have learned about grief.  Because it is an agonizing place to be in life.

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If I had to describe grief on an emotional and physical level, I would use the metaphor of your stomach and chest being a chicken breast -- and someone is pulling strips of the meat off.

I have used this with patients and friends and they agreed. So as unpleasant of as it sounds, this is just what it feels like for some.

Once one accepts that they have to grieve, well then it is a matter of holding that grief right in front of your face and heart.

I picture a dark cloud every time I experience grief; right in my line of vision. To work through it, I have to embrace it. Feel it. Lean into that pain.

The truth is, there is no way to get over grief but to feel it, and to feel it fully. No amount of prayer, medication, or social support will take grief away. It can lessen it. It can make it less painful. But grief is only healed when it has run its course in the one grieving.

And it is difficult to say how long that is. In psychology we say bereavement that lasts longer than two months has turned into depression. Treatment wise, I agree. But it is still grief. And it still has to be felt to heal.

Grief is absolutely necessary to accept a death, get over a relationship, or any other loss. You cannot move on and live -- live fully -- unless you experience grief. You can deny it, you can use coping mechanisms, you can self medicate, but at some point, that grief will come up for you and bite you.

I have learned to accept grief and walk through the process. One does heal, eventually, even when the loss is vast.

The more I have had to grieve in my life the more I have learned about it. Sometimes it is easier to accept than it used to be. I guess that comes from living life. But one of the loneliest and most painful places a person can be in is grief.

If you know someone suffering, reach out to them. If you yourself are grieving lean into it, allow it, and let the process begin.

The sooner you accept it, the quicker you will heal. And we all deserve to live life, and live it to the fullest.

His mercies are new every morning -- even when we have had an immense loss.
 
The REV. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice in Montrose. You can reach her at Kimberlie@kimberliezakariantherapy.com

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