My hands trembled and my heart started beating quicker as the minutes grew closer…
I wasn’t trembling because I was afraid to speak at the Links Grief Summit that evening. I don't have a fear of public speaking. My trembling was about feeling into the enormous pain of loss present in the communal heart of those engaging in the summit.
In some shape or form, everyone who participated in this event had experienced the sting of loss - and had some form of scarring to their tender hearts, and that thought shook me to my core.
As I sat down moments before the event I put my decaf iced coffee down on my desk and took a few moments to center myself. I began to settle in as I watched the Summit launch and my dear friend, Sara Rivkah, get on and begin her introductions. I received a number of messages from people who were logging on- some who I knew, and some who I did not.
“I hope they can sense my care, my love and my prayers for healing” I thought to myself.
I put my hand on my heart and felt the love emanating from within.
I pray that my words would provide a little bit of comfort, or at the very least, a feeling of validation that would allow even just one person to feel, “Aha, my feelings make so much more sense. I’m not alone.”
The Silent Layers Beyond Loss and Death
The Grief Summit was primarily for adults who lost their parents to death, and were now experiencing delayed grief. Though the talk was primarily about the grief of losing a parent, I received many messages after the summit, asking about the other layers of emotional grief, and I felt compelled to write about that here.
Emotional grief is a lens that has many layers that expands beyond the grief of death, and loss of life. As humans, we can all benefit from embracing the concept and normalizing its existence in our lives, in the lives of loved ones, and its prevalence in our communities.
Grief isn't a strange topic for me.
Actually, it’s one often discussed in my office and in my life.
I’ve experienced both losing loved ones to death, and have also had to make space for the other flavors of grief, as I’ve engaged in this journey called life. And as I’ve normalized grief in daily conversations, I’ve met more and more people who feel a personal resonance with grief as well.
Grief has invisible impacts- felt by many people - more on that here.
In some raw moments, I’ve shared with Sara Rivkah, that I wish the organization - LINKS- was around when I was a young child, when I had lost a close relative. When I had experienced my loss, I was young, confused, sad and worried. Instead of grieving, I learned to paste a happy smile on my face. Since I have dimples, and I smiled a lot as a child, I got a new nickname that I was called with utmost endearment.
“Dimples” they called me..
This unintentionally reinforced that my smiles were so much more welcome than the gloomy, sad or angry faces that were worn by other relatives dealing with the aftermath of the death. Only years later did I begin making sense of my loss. And as I did, I felt the weight of bricks slowly drop off of my heart, and with that, the glow in my heart glistened as the sparkle shined brighter in my eyes.
When my heart began to sparkle again, my devotion to normalizing grief grew.
This is why I am so passionate about partaking in this conversation about delayed grief. It was nobody’s fault that grief felt foreign to many of the elders in my family. They were just repeating what they had been taught. Messages like “it's all meant to be”, “he's in a better place”, or “it’s time to move on”, likely a creative survival response, one that was commonly used to deal with painful circumstances, in past generations.
Education and normalization are the doorways to healing and health for our next generation.
We often turn a blind eye to the wisdom that children carry. “Little” ones intuitively pick up on implicit messages; they can sense the when something is wrong, or when sadness is in the air.
The beauty of the growth and evolution in my own family- and many families- over the years, is that there’s been a normalization and learning about healthy expression and an invitation to feel all the “feels” connected to loss and grief.
LINKS - A Powerful Healing Agent For Families Who Are Grieving
Organizations such as LINKS and Shloimy’s Club have and continue to do an amazing job at educating and supporting our families and communities in providing support, and resources, (including legal and therapy guidance) for those who have lost a loved one.
My own experience with grief as a child, and the subsequent healing, has taught me so much about the importance of honoring the way children process painful circumstances….and the value in offering them the deep respect they deserve, and the space to grieve (when needed) as fellow travelers of life.
A book about Grief
It’s been an honor, and somewhat reparative, to have contributed to what I believe to be a deeply rich resource of its kind, “It’s Not Over As We Say Goodbye”, a guide to grief, paying tribute to the eternal life and love of a beautiful girl, Moussia Zaltzman a’h. Rebecca Shapiro, one of the founders of Project Proactive, pours her artistry, heart and soul into recreating the vivacious spirit and vibrancy of Moussia, as she narrates her own story to support those who are grieving.
Researching and writing the “Grief Guide for Parents” was eye opening and affirming. The science that we already know and that we use in our therapy sessions can be seamlessly transferable. We can use this information to solidify the foundation for raising more resilient children, fostering stronger connections in relationships (both in life and death) and building a more compassionate community.
Healthy grieving can be one of the greatest gifts - a gift to self, a gift to our families and a gift to those around us.
We don't need to hold demons of pain, confusion and wonderings inside us. Rather, when we allow for time and space to grieve, to mourn, to cry, to yell, to rage, to scream and to settle, we are able to largely relieve the pain. Subsequently, we are able to live life more wholly. The glisten in our eyes comes back as we find ways to reconnect with the meaning of life, and more tolerably navigate our painful emotions whenever they rise up to the surface of our consciousness.
Untapped grief burdens us…
Yet, accessed and processed grief allows us to evolve, and grow into ourselves, settle into our lives, and expand our hearts.
Grieving, in my humble opinion, is a part of all of our living experiences. We grieve hopes, dreams, ideas, struggles, times of life, relationships, and unexpected or unwanted changes.
And as we grieve, we make space for hopes, newfound possibilities and energy to focus on that which is in front of us.
So, my wish for you, dear reader,
…Is that if you are grieving or tending to some form of grief, loss, a death, or noticing some emotional grief, know that you are not alone. Whatever you are feeling is valid and real.
I hope some of my story may have allowed you to feel a bit understood in some way.
And if you’re looking for one on one counseling to help you do some deeper healing or get to focus on your grief in a productive fashion, know that we are here for you.
Sending much care your way,
For more information about Links, the incredible organization that supports those who are grieving in our community, visit LINKS
For more information about the children’s book about grief that I collaborated on with Project Proactive (includes parent and community guide) visit HERE
*originally published on LinkedIn