Heart Connections – Leaning Into Grief While Leaning Into Life

Grief and sorrow are our companions after the death of a child, sibling, or grandchild. There is no place within where we can hide from, ignore, or push our deep pain. We may try to shove down our grief or decide we won’t give it space, but it usually waits until an opening is cleared. Among the many struggles we experience after a profound loss, a challenging one is finding a balance between grieving and continuing to take part in life.

Grief is not a choice but an experience that needs to be addressed, expressed, supported, and validated. Grief is felt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We may seek distractions or ways to avoid the pain when coping with the intensity that grief brings. Yet, when we ignore, push down, or try to numb our grief, it can become internalized. Grief internalized is carried in our bodies and manifests as depression, anxiety, addiction, physical illness, and mental strain.

Choosing to lean into our grief, instead of away from it, can be painful. When we move toward it and allow ourselves to experience it more fully, we discover ways to better manage our sorrow, express our pain, and be validated by others experiencing similar situations. Our struggle with grief is one of the ways we learn to carry our pain and find our footing again after a great loss.

Similarly, leaning into life and living is also a choice. Accepting invitations from family and friends when we want to stay in our shell or seeking to mend a broken relationship are choices. Being kind to others and being kind to ourselves are choices. Eating a healthy diet and moving our bodies to the extent we are able, are choices as well. Just as leaning into our grief helps us learn how to carry our pain, leaning into life allows the possibility of meaning, purpose, and renewal.

Grief will be with us and will take up a lot of space that isn’t apparent to others from the outside. Finding a balance between leaning into our grief while continuing to engage with life and living is important to our health and well-being. This may feel very difficult, but doing so offers the possibility of having more meaning, peace, enjoyment, love, and hope over time through our struggle with this challenge. Sometimes grief will lead and leaning into life follows. At other times, leaning into living leads, and grief accompanies alongside. There is no right or wrong way to balance this, but we can find a place of stronger foundation and greater contentment through our struggle with both.

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Comments (2)

  • Tremendous article. Thank you so much.
    I know from personal experience that grief cannot be ignored or numbed.
    After losing my only child, Lee, from a lightning strike in 2006 I began drinking to numb the pain.
    It escalated of course, slowly and sneakily until alcoholism took over. I finally reached out for help and am 4 years sober.
    I take TCF hotline and people always ask me what to do. I tell them I can’t tell thenn what to do but I CAN tell them what NOT to do and that is
    try to numb the pain as I did. I am sure I am not alone with this and suggested it as a topic for a workshop at TCF National Conference.
    They did not buy into the idea. Too bad. I think it’s important to address.
    Anyway, thank you again for such an important piece.

  • Thank you so much for this, it has been 27 months since our Jacob died at 42, 5 weeks later my sweet Momma died. What a blow! I have struggled with this grief and there are days that I can barely get out of bed, but most days I am a functioning person now. Trying to find that balance between living in the land of the living and that deep intense pain can be hard.

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