Loss, Grief, Mourning, and Turning Towards
Tudor Caliman, Registered Psychologist
Founder, Made in Thought Counselling Services
Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.
– Lily Tomlin
Life and death, like intertwined dancers, give meaning to each other’s steps – distinct yet inextricably linked as one.
What is loss, grief, and mourning, we may ponder and inquire? In essence, they are change. Loss is a turning towards what is, and grief is a turning towards what was and might have been. When faced with loss, the encounter with grief begins – a private expression of our loss. Then comes mourning, a public display of our grief.
Loss, like the ebb and flow of waves in the tides of change, while grief is the force propelling the churning waves, pushing and pulling, we are tossed and turned in life’s sea. The strength of this bares the depth of our unease.
Grief is the turbulence of sorrow’s form, capable of lifting us high or leaving us scattered and undone. At times, it hurls us far from where we are. Admits the movement of our grief, balance is battered in the rolling whitecaps of the sea; vision’s unclear and it’s hard to hear. Thoughts stir like sediment, far and wide, and in survival mode, we find ourselves redefined.
But where do we exist in this swirling mix? Loss and grief are enigmatic in their means. In the now, we mourn what was known and foreknown, replaying it and more. In the felt textures of loss and grief, we may uncover nature’s way of things. When all else seems closed and unclear, an opening may appear, guiding us towards ourselves. Without the griever, there is no grief, where two are one, and one is whole and clear.
Grief is more than emotional resonance; it’s a cerebral debut – a private echo of our consciousness, reflecting memories held dear. It’s a yearning for what once was and/or for dreams held near. Mourning, then, is grief’s outward display – a paintbrush coloring the world in sorrow’s shades. In the rituals of remembrance, we hum an ancient tune, paying tribute to the footprints left behind and sighs whispers to the moon. In the recesses of the mind, loss, grief, and mourning entwine in a wordless lullaby.
Change, ceaseless, an endless tide’s embrace, sculpts existence’s shifting space, a boundless place. Unstoppable, change flows, begetting more change it sows. Attempting to stop change is change cloaked as resistance in disguise.
While its movement cannot be halted, we can influence change’s flow. And when impossible, we can shape its impact’s blow. In this eternal move of movements, grief’s spectrum turns the view – to where, to when, and to whom? Change births change, unfolding transformations from the familiar into the unknown and from the unknown into a different shade of the familiar.
A constant movement disrupts our predetermined view of how life should be, in shades both old and new. In this eternal dance, how do we grieve? The “how” implies a path, a formula, a guide.
Can deep insight truly reside within the sands of time? Countless stories, poems, songs and more fill our lore. On loss, grief, and mourning they explore and implore. Change is existence’s breath, an unwavering, rhythmic flow, and our beliefs must breathe anew as they come and go.
Loss isn’t a simple switch, but rather a dimmer’s sway. Its intensity shaped by grief’s echoes of our inner display. Loss strips away the layers of the familiar and routine, compelling us to grieve the shadows and the dreams, mourning what was and what might never be.
It’s not about crafting anew, but rather paying tribute to the selves we once knew, now distant and unclear. The states of mind we choreographed, the roles we donned, the scripts we used, and the habits and autopilots we endeared or endured. Where our identities are like sand dunes shaped by time, and among others, nature’s rhyme, forever shifting and transforming.
We grieve as the “new normal” unfolds, in fact, for without this change, this newness, why would we grieve at all, with sorrow in our hearts? Where emptiness is filled with memory and thought.
In the depths of our sorrow, self-deception sometimes dwells. When lost in grief and mourning’s fog, we may shun the guiding presence of loss’s light. Loss knows no hierarchy, no tally of scores, but grief makes deposits and withdrawals. Within the chambers of the heart, the halls of memory and experience, grief is the collector of our losses, intricately intertwined. Like a cascade of dominoes, it triggers past pain anew, awakening dormant sorrows where they once withdrew.
In moments of quietness, when distractions fade away, carried remembrances, emotions, and old wounds awaken. See, grief’s time isn’t governed by a timer that beeps when it’s done, but by the indelible imprints and memories etched in our mind’s heart. Triggers, such as scents or places, summon us on replay, weaving the past into the present, projecting remembrances onto tomorrow’s unknown draft.
Psychological time, a blade with edges both sharp and kind, can mend and reopen our sutured heart. Grief isn’t an event or a linear express; it’s a personal crusade, moving at the pace of our inner consent.
Relationships can shine as guiding stars, anchoring our sense of where, why, who, and how we are. Though the shadow of isolation can sow despair as we long for freedom from insecurity’s snare. We often seek stability and continuity in life’s unsettled sea, searching for refuge in predictability against the gasp of ambiguity. Yet, ironically, this yearning ensnares us further as we turn away from what’s whole to assume fragmented roles.
We wear countless pieces, guises, and membership names, like shards of a shattered mirror reflecting fractured aspects of ourselves. The whole obscured by the fragments we clutch and known, leading to endless dissections, divisions, and internal blows.
Change carries loss on its breath, a perpetual arrangement of rearrangement, a dance with a rhythmic consistency of inconsistency, an exchange of old novelties anew.
Grief and depression, though divergent in their ways, share the same waterway. While grief may flow unburdened, free from depression’s heavy burden, depression carries the weight of grief’s toll. When grief’s natural cadence falters, caught in a fixated, cyclical pour, we descend deeper toward depression’s murky floor.
At times, we mourn not only what has slipped from our grasp or sight, but the very nature of loss itself, with its ever-changing plight. Loss beckons us to glimpse the shifts deep therein, thereout, and in between. It may bear sorrow, but must suffering ensue? With insight into loss and grief, a different quality of change may light – an “insight out,” sort of a thing.
The true struggle lies not in loss’s deep strife but in our relentless resistance to life’s rife. By denying ourselves permission to heal the wounds of time, the raw pain and sorrow, we risk spiraling into despair. Or perhaps, in despair, we are found?
Loss itself isn’t the source of suffering; suffering emerges when we cling to or resist the natural course of grief and mourning. In so doing, we deny ourselves in the presence of loss, for the griever and the grief are truly one in this.
Resistance takes on many forms; distractions are refuge we embrace as life storms. Work and substances may offer fleeting solace, yet beneath it all, thoughts and emotions stir, continuously chasing what cannot be chased… and henceforth embrace. To resist is to consent to chaos and/or rigidity.
Loss and grief, when in balance, we face our chaos and/or rigidity, for in this movement between what was, is, and if, we may uncover the unvarnished truth of our reality.
The relationship between truth and reality is complicated, with blurry lines and unresolved. So, here’s a take. Reality is sculpted by perception’s hands, the power of our felt senses, thoughts, and beliefs, while truth, elusive as a whisper, cannot be forged by such things as these; only uncovered, if at all. Truth serves as the bedrock upon which reality’s mettle is tested, where the paths of wisdom are etched, re-etched, and retested.
Reality melds with values and beliefs, woven within the web of the human psyche. It’s conceived, constructed, cultured, and nurtured into a familiar form. Truth, remains untamed, untouched by thought’s design. At best, reality can only fashion and refashion the truth of nature’s way, and by then, truth is no longer truth, but a scale of our subjective reality’s sway.
Reality is ‘our world,’ as sensed by our senses and filtered through the decree of perception, synthesizing the way it was, is, and shall be. Truth, in pureness, is life itself – natural, organic, and untethered. It’s the isness of the is. When truth touches reality, a sense of loss stirs, shaping ripples of grief and mourning at our feet.
Resistance often lurks within our experience, a loop of memories and imprints of emotions past, biding us to yesterdays and tomorrows. It replays shattered worlds in a different time and space, detached from our isness, maintaining a relentless pace, intensifying our agony and pain.
Intellect may know the ‘why,’ but belief may waver, diverging in their ways. A tug-of-war, a clash between knowledge and belief – and obstructive force, like debris in a river’s reef. As we resist the current’s flow amid this internal storm, we seek for a tranquil place to be.
Don’t hold the breath when life needs to breathe. Clinging to our held breath, through distractions and analytical pleas, may only intensify our agony within. By resisting nature’s nurture, in woe and pain, we’ll be. To sit with sorrow, allowing it to gently stream, is compassion – a recognition of humanity’s fragile existence. So, quite literally, please don’t forget to breathe.
By granting ourselves permission to turn towards loss, we uncover a unique space not found in thought’s plea. It’s a liberation from the known, from the dominion of thought’s reign. Turning away from this authentic embrace is something we need not do, for running from sorrow is fleeing from what’s true and towards suffering.
To evade sorrow is to drift towards constructed selves. To acknowledge sorrow is humanity’s unearthing – an excavation of the ego and into our being, humbled and unbound.
Compassion is a guiding beacon, illuminating the depts within, free from prepackaged notions and ideals. It’s a profound insight, a validation of our perfectly imperfect nature.
It’s said that acceptance is the path to or through change. What does it mean, this oft-spoken refrain? And is it the sole way or an overused sway? Acceptance isn’t a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ an all-or-nothing verdict. It’s not a binary choice between ‘acceptance’ and ‘non-acceptance.’ Instead, it’s a dive into the depths of loss’s nature, a movement that demands our full attention. It’s not just a word but a profound acknowledgement of the engagement that has occurred and is unfolding.
Acknowledgement serves as an emulate to our emotions’ stance, even when it’s one of non-acceptance. Give it a chance. Imagine a dear one in a similar plight; how would we respond in empathy’s soft light? To them, we would probably offer a reassuring embrace, letting them know they’re seen in this shared space. A comforting touch, a change in tone, a moment’s shared grace; acknowledgement in action, in this tender place.
Being with what is, in this compassionate way, staying with them without distractions’ waver. No quick fix, no dismissive words, just a shared presence that unfolds.
Acknowledgment doesn’t mean we are content or in accord, accepting that we are not accepting as it’s known. It’s recognizing the impact of truth on our reality, activation of clarity’s gently stream, allowing the moment to be, for it already is. Without acknowledging our present step, accepting the remembrances of the past and the unforeseen, unfavored, or unconsented quakes, how would we know where to securely place our other step? In the absence of compassion, we are lost in schemes, after-shocked further into dreams. When we look and refuse to see, we risk our balance, slipping into the seams. Compassion, a stabilizing force, denies anxiety and depression and footing to hold.
Habits often seek the embrace of the familiar and the known, yet true comfort arises in life’s interference. Comfort dwells in life’s shifting sea, within adaptability, where our footing can rest rooted or swim. Clinging to the known sometimes obscures a deeper truth – that comfort isn’t happiness; it’s insight’s flickering flow.
To travel anywhere, we must start, or more precisely, continue from somewhere. The only place that it can be is from where we are. So, in this continual movement, what are we turning towards? Whatever that may be, shapes the quality of our life at sea.
When we contemplate the nature of loss, grief, and mourning, let us transcend the oversimplified division between right or wrong approaches and delve into what constitutes a healthy or unhealthy response. The constructs of right or wrong can sometimes feel restrictive, binary, akin to a pass-or-fail judgment. How about embracing the notions of healthy or unhealthy instead? By broadening our outlook, we may gain greater flexibility and adaptability, better equipped to navigate the ever-shifting terrain of loss, grief, and mourning. Even activities typically considered healthy can take a turn towards the unhealthy when pursued without balance.
With these things in mind, here are some proposals, by no means exhaustive or presented in any order, and not intended as prescriptive “how-to’s.” Instead, view them as potential prompts for activating kind intention. Or discard them altogether and consider, if a moment presented itself, how would you meet and approach a close other navigating similar turbulent sea?
- Turn towards loss.
- Balance resistance with flow – the movement of grief (a.k.a., you).
- Dive into acceptance and acknowledgment.
- Activate compassion.
- Lean into the unknown.
- Don’t forget to breathe.
- Seek support and connection.
- Move at your own consented pace.
- Turn pain into insight.
- Embrace change and adaptation.
- Continue from where you are.