Grief can be experienced for so many reasons and ebbs and flows throughout our life.
When we first think about grief, we automatically think about the loss of someone due to death. But grief is experienced in so many other ways.
When we experience loss of any kind, it leads to grief, a sense of loss that can feel so overwhelming, and if that grief is tied up in complex issues, it can feel so much more painful.
When we experience grief, we all go through stages, and each stage is experienced differently for everyone; each of us experiences our grief in our own unique way.
The official stages of grief are:
It’s not a linear process. Most people experience this in waves of emotion, often moving back and forward through all these emotions over a period of time.
And when we experience loss of any kind, it’s natural to ask why? Yet, it's not one of the official stages of the grief cycle, but I think it should be.
Often all our attention is focused on anger and denial.
Yet, in my experience around grief, the place of why is more powerful than any of these stages because the why freezes you in your tracks and stops you from moving forward through all the other stages.
Not being able to let go of the why keeps us stuck in the past and prevents us from living in a way that honours the person or thing we have lost.
"Why" can be a powerful question that can lead to clarity in some cases? In the case of grief, it can be a barrier to growth and keep you stuck.
When my mum died, I got so stuck in the “why”, constantly trying to find the answer to so many questions. I was so lost in trying to figure out the why, searching and looking for comfort in the answers I had hoped to find.
The comfort I hoped the why would give me never came. It just led to more questions, more why's and more sadness, more pain and deeper grief. For a very long time, I was stuck in this place and couldn’t find a way to move forward in my life.
I showed up to things, but I was numb to everything around me; at the end of the day, I would lie on the sofa or lay in bed asking why, over and over again, and I couldn’t find a way to make any sense of what happened.
And eventually, the why began to fade from my mind, and I started to come back into my life, but I wasn’t the same person and have never been the same person. I have never returned to that Avril and never will.
When my father died two years later, my experience was different. I didn’t realise it at the time, but what made that experience of grief so different was that I somehow didn’t get stuck in the why, and you may think that was because I moved to the acceptance stage, but it wasn’t. I found it really hard to accept what had happened, but what did happen was I stopped asking the question why and started to ask how instead.
My awareness shifted. I knew there was no comfort to be found in the "why". I had spent the last two years begging the universe or God to explain why all this suffering and pain, only to find that why is a question with no answers when it comes to grief. It only offers up more questions than comfort.
So when my dad died 2 years later, I had no why’s left because they all died with my mum, and the only question I had was “How”, another question that is so overlooked in the stages of grief that should be included.
You see, “how” shines a light to the now, the present moment; it takes our focus off the past and brings us front and centre with our life and then gently begins to shine a light towards the future.
The how moves into the place of acceptance. Encouraging us to explore “how” to live a life that honours the memory of our loss and honour the life we have.
So instead of asking why, when my dad died, I asked how can I honour the time we shared and the life he would want me to live.
When my youngest brother died to suicide in 2019, I found myself back at that place of why again, going over and over the why and getting so caught up in the past, regrets and guilt, until I remembered that no comfort was coming from that place, no answers to be found. So once again, I returned to the question of “how”.
How do I honour his life, the memory of our childhood together and put my attention there?
Sadly, a year later, my other brother died unexpectedly at the start of the 1st lockdown, and there wasn’t space to focus on the why and get stuck there.
Because like so many of us, so many other different losses were happening in my life at that time, and all my attention was on the "how" again.
And so it went on for me; the sadness, the grief of all this loss is still there. It ebbs and flows.
There are days when I sit down and cry, astonished that these people who mean so much to me are no longer here in my life, and then it passes, and I move back into the how.
Living in the why diminishes the memories and increases suffering, no matter what kind of loss you experience.
Think about any loss you have experienced, a job, a relationship and the moment you ask why your mind retrogrades back through the past, back through all that you have lost, and the pain begins.
And before you know it, you are stick in that spiral of grief once again.
How lets us cultivate a new life through loss. It doesn’t make it go away, but it can become such a powerful vessel for change.
When we are stuck in the why it diminishes the positive memories; when we shift to the "how", it shines a light and moves us to action and with action comes healing and transformation.
The "how" reminds us that we are forever connected to all that has entered our life, and it never leaves us. That connection is eternal and continues wherever we are.
It shaped us, and for good or bad, the "how" offers us the opportunity to use what we have experienced to create a deeper and more meaningful life for ourselves and those we share our lives with.
The one thing that keeps me going through all of this is love.
Love is what keeps our connection alive, and love is what propels us to keep moving forward despite our losses.
Grief is never easy to navigate, have faith that innately you will find a way through and look in the direction of how you can honour that loss and create something that will grow with love through your loss.
If you would like support with grief and loss, you can reach out to me here to book a free discovery session or come and join us over in one of our Facebook groups, Avril Gill Coaching or Dissolve Your Anxiety, or follow me in IG for guidance and support.