It begins with your attitude.
If we treat grief as an affliction that needs to be cured, then naturally we will try to hurry thru grief as quickly as possible. If you believe in the process as stages of grief, we will try to do them each quickly, so we can say that we’ve been there and done that. More importantly when you are confronted with a recurrent emotion, you will perhaps resent the return of that thought you believed that you had dealt with.
On the other hand, I believe that grief is a highly evolved process that informs and teaches us about love. It is a purposely lifelong process of gathering and cataloging the positive feelings of love that you have shared. Grief as a teacher can make you more aware of all of the types and versions of love that you share in daily life, and grief can make you better at loving those people who surround you.
The initial shock and unbalancing of emotions that quickly follows a death can cause people to hit the road towards acceptance and run through the process too quickly. Grief becomes a hurried 20 cities in 14 day unguided tour through a strange place you never really wanted to go to. Your hurried schedule is fixed, you have only so many hours to explore and absorb each place you go to before you must get back on the bus and head to the next place. At the end of two weeks, you can’t remember much about any of the places you have visited, you barely know which city you’re in, and you are exhausted rather than enlightened.
The model that I have adopted for grief is different. I have built a peaceful garden like emotional place in my daily life for each of the loved ones that I have lost, not just lost thru death but also lost thru disconnection. Loss thru disconnection, if unresolved to peace, can be more traumatic and damaging to our daily life than loss thru death.
I’m an older geek, so I have built an emotional ability on the model of a Star Trek transporter that disassembles a living breathing person and re-assembles then somewhere else. I can “beam” myself completely between each of these quiet peaceful places of the collection of memories and lessons I have built in life. When life calls, I can “beam” myself right back into daily life, with all of its noise and responsibility.
The word peaceful is operative here. If the emotional place you build in memory of a love lost is not peaceful, then you will avoid visiting it because it isn’t comfortable. These places are full of the most valuable parts of your life, so not visiting them comfortably would become tragic over a lifetime.
It is imperative that you extinguish any anger that accidentally comes into these places of memories. Anger causes fires that destroy the memories that you most want to hold onto.
Simplified, my process is to resolve anger that I find in grief within my daily life. When I find resonance, peace, and happiness in a memory of someone I loved, I take that memory to the safe peaceful place I am building. That process isolates and protects the memories I wish to keep alive from the fires of any remaining anger.
My emotional transporter is programmed to sense danger and to not allow me to visit these places when I have active anger. This keeps the responsibility for extinguishing anger front and center in my daily life.
More on anger in another post, but well managed anger is a natural and often healthy part of grief. In some grief, for me it’s often my brother’s suicide, recurring flares of anger are normal events that may never be resolved to my complete peaceful satisfaction. I believe those flares are self-protective warnings, sparked by some fear of ever finding myself in the emotional sate he was when he killed himself.
Keeping the unresolved anger in daily life keeps that anger from becoming an emotional wildfire. When I seek peace from the anger, I must cleanse myself of it before I visit my gardens of memories of lost loved ones.
When I began this process of creating emotional spaces, I thought first as a library with rooms for each person I have loved. But libraries are passive places that require no effort or input. So I came to the peaceful garden concept, because one must visit, tend to and nurture a garden to derive real benefit and satisfaction from it. Gardens will suffer weeds, drought, flood and untended unused gardens die. These emotional gardens I have built need me to visit, to bring new memories, to trim and adjust old memories. These gardens live and breathe, keeping the past alive with my help, in the same way those I have lost once lived and breathed.
No hurry, but In your grief, build a safe and accessible emotional garden for those memories that you wish to keep alive. Keep it free of anger and of the noise and responsibility of daily life. Bring it newly discovered memories when you transport yourself there, and bring some flowers back every time you visit it.