Now that my grief for my lost soul mate is evolving away from a focus on all I’ve lost and the accompanying pain, I can see the process more clearly. Perhaps for some people the stages of grief — denial, guilt, anger, depression, acceptance — hold true, but for me and for most of the bereft I have met on this journey, those stages have little meaning. For most of us, anger and even guilt are more like quickly passing moods than lingering phases. Some of us get depressed, but most of us don’t. We’re just get damn sad, which is not the same thing as depression. I’ve been in that dark pit and I know what it’s like. This sorrow, no matter how intense, is not depression. And acceptance is not the end — in itself acceptance brings no peace. What does bring peace is feeling the grief and letting it evolve into something we can live with because the loss — the yearning — will always be a part of us. Getting to that point can take years, depending on the depth of the relationship.
Grief is an incredibly complex state that constantly changes and constantly brings changes. The underlying emotion of grief is yearning, not guilt or anger. Even after we’ve put our shattered psyches back together as best as we can, even after we’ve come to an acceptance of our new situation, the yearning to see our loved one last time can be overwhelmingly painful at times. The yearning (such a mild word for the ache or craving or hunger that tears at us) is often manageable, other times it shoots through us like a geyser bursting out of calm waters. Even decades after losing a spouse, or so I’ve been told, we bereft still feel the loss, still yearn for our mates.
A friend who lost her life mate four months after I lost mine, told me how much she hates people telling her to “move on”. She’s not like me, spouting her pain into cyberspace for all to see. If you didn’t know she’d experienced such a soul-shattering loss, you’d never be able to guess it — she’s keeping her grief to herself lest it burden others. She’s taking care of her family. She’s accepting the responsibility for an aging parent. She made the holidays special for those around her. She’s writing. She’s even going out and having fun, or at least as much as is possible considering her situation. In fact, she’s doing all that she ever did, and doing it well. Yet people tell her to move on with her life. What else is there to move on to? Her grief in no way debilitates her. It’s simply a part of her life, this ache to see her mate one more time.
Searching is another major component of grief that is ignored in the “stages” concept. We bereft search for our mates in crowds. We cry out for them, especially at the beginning. We search for them in our dreams. Of course we know we won’t find them. This isn’t a mental aberration, and it certainly isn’t denial. It’s simply a way of coping with the unthinkable. How can our loved ones be gone so completely? It’s the goneness that confuses us, pains us. It destroys everything we always accepted about the world. (Of course we knew all lives end in death, but we didn’t KNOW it.) As the search for our lost one diminishes, we begin searching for ourselves, for our place in this new, unthinkable world.
It would be so much easier to deal with grief if we had a list of stages to go through and to check off as we experience them, but that simply isn’t the case.
So we yearn, and we search, and we go on living.