Some of my favourite quotes about loss come from the author Harriet Beecher Stowe. In one of these she says, “When the heart strings are suddenly cut, it is a physical impossibility to feel faith or resignation. There is a revolt of the instinctive or animal system…”
Your emotional systems know that to preserve you they need to shut down. It is almost inevitable, therefore, that you will feel alone in your grief, stumbling through life like it is a fog. With your emotional systems shut down (in shock) it is hard for anyone to connect to you.
Yet that is your greatest need. Connection to those who love us is our most core human need.
If the person you lost is a parent who loved you, it compounds the loss–they are the person you most need in the moment of grief. They represent the comfort that will get you through to healing. Or, your parent who survived the loss is also reeling in shock, perhaps unable to give the attention and comfort that you need. Loss added to grief added to sorrow.
Eventually, perhaps not right in the time of the trauma, you need to connect to someone. And there will be someone who cares, and who wants to understand, and who listens.
But in the moment, in the season of loss, that feeling of shutting down is what preserves you from drowning in the pain–sometimes it feels literally like you are drowning. And so you may feel that isolation is what saved you–it feels safer to hide or to bury your pain. It may even be easier.
It is hard to revisit that deep darkness you buried as a child. It hurts, sometimes like hell, and the tears don’t feel good at first. But eventually they start to do the work of healing.
When the moment comes, someone says, “I want to hear this. I want to understand. I’ve never been there, but if you tell me I will listen and care.” And then you have to choose–and it might feel easier to keep hiding.
But it is better to come out of the fog and share.
When you have cried together, or let them hold your hand while you cry, or taken the kleenex they offered–when your grief has been shared, it will start to feel like the rocks in your soul are a little less weighty.
And if you are the one handing the kleenex, holding a hand, or saying, “Tell me. I’ll do my best to understand,” one of the best gifts is to let your own heart be moved to tears. Don’t be afraid of tears, they are a gift. Shared tears are a treasure.