You can ignore it, swim in it and attempt to live life as close to the way you did before your loss(es).
You can smoke about it, drink about it, have wild sex about it, and sleep all day about it. You can choose to engage with it or you can choose to push it down.
I just want you to know that you have a choice, and that however you choose to engage with your grief is in fact an active choice we make, whether or not it feels like it.
This may seem obvious, but most of the messages we hear about grief say things like “it’ll get better with time” and “just keep going”.
In that context of assumed lack of agency in your process, the idea that you can choose what to do with your grief may feel revolutionary and maybe even wrong, at least at first.
Here’s a story about grief in the midst of love to illustrate what I’m talking about.
It was about a year and a half after my mom died when I went to a dear friend from college’s wedding. It was the summer at a beautiful old house and property in Massachusetts. The house filled with family members and friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since graduating back in 2013. The day of the wedding itself was beautiful, loving, tender-all the things you’d hope for a dear friend. The ceremony morphed into dinner morphed into dancing, as it does, and at one particular moment on the dance floor, my grief hit me.
I don’t know what it was about-maybe the revelation that my mom wouldn’t be at my own future wedding, maybe something else. It doesn’t really matter. The point is my response to that fuzzy far away feeling in my head and the dropping down feeling in my stomach. All of a sudden I was looking at the happy and light hearted people around me and feeling incredibly alone. At that moment I had a choice. I could shut the feelings down, take a shot and keep on dancing. Or I could stop, leave the room and let the grief do what it needed to do.
I chose the later, thankfully with another dear friend nearby to rub my back while I sobbed into the night sky.
And then, it was over.
The grief had moved.
I got back up and, tired and didn’t try to force energy where there wasn’t to go back to the dance floor. I went back to my room, and went to bed.
Anniversaries and holidays are hard, but it is these small moments of choice that truly make up the life of a grieving body. Do I stay or do I go? Do I sit with what is here or do I ignore it with everything that I’ve got?
A body that doesn’t have practice being with the sensations of grief without distraction or shutting down will not know that it has a choice, and a body that knows how to be with grief fully does.
Ultimately, that’s the difference.
That’s the choice you get to be empowered about when you learn to connect with your body in grief.
It’s not about getting to an end goal. It’s not about right or wrong. But listening to your body and knowing you have a choice of how to respond will, more often than not, guide you down the path that you need to be on.