Give Yourself Permission to Grieve

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Many of us carry around our unfinished grief our whole lives. We don’t give ourselves permission to grieve because we’re afraid of what letting down our guard might do to us. Grief is a dark, unknown abyss and the secret fear is that if we allow ourselves to sink into it we’ll never find our way back out.

Of course we usually rationalize away the fear as just needing to remain strong for ourselves and our loved ones, or as having too many pressing duties and responsibilities, or as not wanting to be sissies. We might tell ourselves we should just be able to get over it, or that other people out there have things far worse than we do. Whatever the rationalization may be the real reason we don’t walk through the door of grief is that we’re afraid, afraid to let ourselves be vulnerable, afraid to unleash those profoundly powerful thoughts and emotions, afraid to say goodbye.

The fear is understandable but the truth is that grief is the universal human response to loss, it’s something all of us must confront at various times throughout the lifespan. The abnormal state of affairs is not sinking into grief, the abnormal state of affairs is trying to put a lid on the grief experience. We fear that letting ourselves grieve will result in dysfunction but just the opposite is true. Dysfunction arises from carrying that unfinished grief around for months or years or our whole lives. The dysfunction resulting from unfinished grief might be a little harder to spot than some of the severe and persistent mental health disorders but it’s there, it affects the quality of our relationships, it affects how we see and respond to the world, it affects our sense of Self, it affects our ability to derive joy out of our experiences, it affects the projects we undertake or the projects we don’t undertake.

It takes courage to push through the rationalizations to just let ourselves grieve without censure or judgment in order to finally get to a place where we can say goodbye to how things were and move forward with our changed circumstances as they are. We worry that we’ll drown in our grief but refusing to grieve is itself a prolonged drowning. Only by submerging ourselves fully in our grief can we make it back to the shore.