Others have lost someone they love and are grieving a loss, too. This truth gives you something rare, something precious.
You feel you’re not the only one who has lost someone they love.
When my dear friend died of cancer two months ago, I longed for a space made for the living that awakened senses and allowed for conversations about glimpses death teaches us about life.
Since the pandemic hit us, we’re no stranger to grief. Our conversations have become virtual — like everything else. So I joined an online community where I could share my grief with others. I became friends with people who’d also experienced loss. I talk about my friend, not just about the diagnosis of cancer but about the winding road of life after.
Healing did not happen under the fluorescent lights of terminal cancer support meetings, in the same hospital basement where we had lost all hope. Not in the circle of metal folding chairs at a community center, where we were asked to share our pain and suffering.
My unexpected healing place began when I talked about my friend with others.
Grief happens to all of us.
It will happen to all of us.
Maybe the coronavirus has killed someone you love. You’re grieving your loss. Maybe right now you’re waking up to a world where someone you love no longer lives. Like I am. My friend was so young and our story was starting and I never got to see how it would end.
You’re struggling with the loss of someone you love. Like I am with my friend’s death.
But here is something we don’t think about when we’re grieving…
No struggle is unknown.
We’re all living parallel stories of grief and love and loss. When someone you love dies, it feels like you’re the only person on the planet who’s grieving. Grief clamps down on your heart, a painful, ragged clench. This grief feels like a black hole is opening up beneath you and you will fall right through.
If that black hole is not terrifying enough on its own, there’s more:
You’re the only one who’s falling into the black hole.
This is what grief does to us: it makes us think we’re the only ones who’re grieving.
But you’re not alone in your grief, my friend.
Your grief overlaps many times over with others.
Your grief seems so separate, so distant.
And yet, it overlaps many times over with others.
- Behind your loss are thousands of people feeling the exact same feeling.
- Someone, somewhere in the world, wakes up to a world where their sister or brother or husband or wife or mother or father or friend is no longer here just like you’re waking up to a world where someone you love no longer lives.
- Anguish shattered someone else’s heart in the world just like it shattered yours for losing a loved one.
- The heartbreak you endured when someone you loved died suddenly is someone else’s terrible future.
Here’s something that can help lessen your pain.
Sharing stories of loss helps in ways you never imagine.
I’m grateful for strangers and people who became my friends in the online community who listen patiently and compassionately. I tell them the story of how my friend died repeatedly, sometimes in minute details. They make me feel heard. With each retelling, my pain is lessening.
Do you want to know what it feels like when you share your grief with others? Someone’s hand rises and holds your face in a trembling hold. You feel that someone dabbing your tears, walking with you in this horrible path where every walk you take pokes your grieving heart with a sharp knife.
Even if all stories of loss I shared and listened to were virtual, I feel someone hugging me tight to lessen my pain.
What a wonderful gift.
I’ve learned shared stories of loss can transcend time zones.
Someone, somewhere in the world, experiencing the same pain you feel puts a balm in your grieving heart. When you share your grief, chances are, you will find comfort — because more often than you realize, others are grieving their loss, too.
Sharing your grief with someone else leads to vulnerability, then to strength through connection.
As the promise of the vaccine flickers at the end of this long and claustrophobic tunnel, we’re starting to daydream about sitting down with our people, dimming the lights, swirling a glass, and asking, who’re you grieving?
Imagine a conversation post-pandemic:
- Which humans will be with you when you share your grief?
- Where will the conversation happen (I imagine my kitchen table where my friends and I talk about our friend we have lost too soon)?
- What music will you listen to (I imagine my friend’s favorite song, “We Sink” by the Monsters playing in the background when we talk about our friend)?
- What stories will you tell?
- What toasts will be made?
- What truths do you want — maybe need — to share?
Grief is the story of all of us. The foundation of a strong human connection.
Sharing your grief with others can help someone else lessen their grief. Your vulnerability can mend their pain. In sharing my grief with others, I’ve found solace in others where I couldn’t find any in mine. You connect in a powerful way when you share your unvarnished grief experiences. The person with you who shares your grief can’t fix the situation. They can listen, though. They can listen even if the same story is told with little variation. They can’t take your pain away.
They can lessen it, though.
Everyone has a story of grief.