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Honouring a Loss

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Honouring a Loss

Penny Younger

The other day, I was talking with a friend. We were talking about loss, love and relationships; and what it looks like to let someone go. 

Whenever I've lost someone, whether it be by a break up, a death, or otherwise, I've always had in my head that the aftermath of that loss had to be hard going.

I'd always thought that it probably had to look like bags under my eyes, eating take out and not wanting to get out of bed. I thought it would probably look like break downs, tears, questions and second guessing myself. I thought it would probably involve anti anxiety supplements, sleeping pills and having to try really hard to hold it together at work.

What if, though, that was just a story? 

What if we could change that story?

What if the loss of someone, could be just as natural as the sun rising in the morning? And what if we could accept it, with just as much grace?

I've had heartache before, and my heart hurt so badly that I thought it was physically bruised and broken. I've laid on the couch all day, I've gone off my food and I've looked at my reflection in the mirror and not quite recognised the person looking back at me.

I've also faced loss gracefully; where I've stood up, and really risen.

When my Dad was sick last year, I danced between the two. I had the sort of anxiety where I physically couldn't get out of bed and I had meltdowns most days, but I also rose to meet the challenge in ways I didn't recognise in myself.

When life throws us curve balls - and it always will - you don't have to put your life on hold in it's aftermath to prove that what you've lost, meant something to you.

Staying in bed for 6 months and refusing to open your curtains, doesn't prove that you loved your boyfriend that you broke up with because it wasn't right anymore.

Taking sleeping pills and eating pizza everyday for a year, isn't proof that you loved the parent you just lost.

Loss doesn't have to look like trauma in it's aftermath.

We think we need to honour a loss, by grieving in a way that looks 'normal.' 

It's normal to lose weight and look tired after you break up with your partner, but it isn't normal (and might be considered odd) to look happy and content straight afterwards.

People might look at you, wondering if you've gone mad, or if you're being really insensitive to the person you've just lost or broken up with - if you appear like you're (god forbid) - okay.

When the time came for my Dad to actually pass away, I was very genuinely, at peace. I was in complete acceptance of what was happening and I understood that it was as natural as being born.

After that loss, I felt okay.

Of course I went through the motions of balling my eyes out, breaking down and going to bed sobbing. But with each tear that I cried, I felt healing happening. I didn't feel turmoil or trauma. I felt like I was releasing something, and it felt good. And in between these tears, I was slowly allowing my life to move forward. I was building a new business, starting to accept social invitations again and starting to feel the life come back into my body again, with each day that passed.

The aftermath of losing my Dad, didn't look like a train wreck. 

It could have.

I expected it to.

But that didn't feel true for me once it was upon me.

I had a few months of feeling peaceful, and some days, for a minute or two at a time; happy.

All of that came crashing down though, when a few months later, I had a rather spectacular meltdown and I realised that my mental health had become really compromised. It was a messy, ugly and challenging time for me; and to be honest, I almost breathed a sigh of relief when it all came crashing down, because I felt like it should have looked like this all along.

When I was working with my kinesiologist about this in the months that followed, she told me that, on a subconscious level, she felt like I only had that break down, because of how guilty I felt about being okay.

It's like I felt like I had to break down, to honour just how much I loved my Dad and to prove how much his passing saddened me. 

Acceptance and peace look foreign to us after a loss, and sometimes, we feel guilty that we aren't honouring the loss enough if that's how we are feeling. 

So we choose pizza and anti anxiety medication, to make a point.

I don't believe it has to be this way, though. 

One thing I've learnt through my experience with loss, is that the aftermath of it doesn't have to look the way it did for someone else, and you don't have to be a mess to prove your love for someone.

You might be a red hot mess, and that's totally cool. Honour the road you're on, I've been there too, many times.

Just don't feel like you have to be there, if you'd really, rather go about it differently.

Sometimes, the greatest way we can honour someone, or something, is by rising.

When you wake up, look at the view from your window, breathe the morning air in, and send a prayer out for them.

Dedicate something to them; your morning walk, a yoga practise or a meditation.

Each time you think of them, send them love.

Before going to bed, pray for their health and happiness.

When you laugh, and smile and feel your life moving forward, know that their essence comes too; because we couldn't be who we are today, without their influence.

Don't let guilt creep in, or the expectation that goodbyes have to be awful and prolonged.

They don't.

You're allowed to let yourself off the hook, and your allowed to move on, in a way that might look foreign, but feels right.

Don't have an expectation of how loss should look, instead, honour the person in a way that feels true; even if that's by finding the joy in life sooner than we are traditionally 'allowed.'