I often write about the early days of grief – that devastation zone where nothing makes sense, and words of intended “comfort” just grate. Support, true support, can be extremely hard to find. Otherwise intelligent, kind, compassionate people just don’t know what to do in the face of your grief.
It’s not entirely their fault. We don’t talk about the reality of grief in our culture. In fact, our culture seems to wear a massive set of reality-blinders when it comes to grief.
How can any of us learn how to support each other if we can’t talk openly about what grief is?
We’ve got this idea that there are only two options in grief: you’re either going to be stuck in your pain, doomed to spend the rest of your life rocking in a corner in your basement wearing sack cloth, or you’re going to triumph over grief, be transformed and come back even better than you were before.
Two options. On-off. Broken or healed.
It doesn’t seem to matter that nothing else in life is like that. Somehow, when it comes to grief, the entire breadth of human experience goes out the window.
There’s this whole middle ground between those two extremes (as there is for everything else in life), but we don’t know how to talk about it. We don’t know how to talk about grief if we step outside that pervasive cultural model of entirely healed or irrevocably broken.
We don’t know how to talk about living inside grief. Living alongside grief.
When I’m creating something for you, whether it’s a blog post, a public talk, or a new course, I think about that narrow band of options. I just can’t work inside that space – it’s not real. I don’t operate in the transformation model. I can’t give a happy ending to things. I can’t tie things up in a pretty bow and say, “Everything’s going to be okay, and you’re going to be even better than before,” because I don’t believe that and it’s not true.
At the same time, I can’t leave you with no message to live into. I can’t just say, sorry, this is going to suck forever and ever, and you’ll never feel any different. I can’t leave you, or anyone, down in that basement rocking in the corner. That’s not appropriate either.
Finding that middle ground is the real work of grief – my work, and yours. Each of us, each one of us, has to find our way into that middle ground. A place the doesn’t ask us to deny our grief, and doesn’t doom us forever. A place that honors the full breadth of grief, which is really the full breadth of love.
What would that middle ground look like for you?
It’s a big question. Your answers will shift and change over time, from the early days of grief through life outside the initial devastation zone. Wherever you are in your grief, I’d like to extend the invitation to join me in exploring the middle ground. I’ve opened a few more spots on my calendar so we can walk through that process together.
When we stake out ground in the middle, there’s room for all the experiences of being alive: the good, the horrifying, the beautiful, and the broken. Nothing is left out. Nothing is inherently wrong. What a relief to have more than two options.
As always, I love to hear from you. Leave a comment and tell me about your middle ground.