Grief holds captive every one of us and no matter how hard we try to escape its cruel hand, it latches onto our hearts and squeezes until we scream with pain. There is no set time to grieve because grieving is personal. So many factors enter in on how long we grieve. There are losses in childhood that often get lost in the shuffle. They can be triggered to rise up like old ghosts from the past to leave us reeling with the intensity of all losses combined into one large ball of inescapable pain. It can feel like our hearts have been cut out of our chests. Sometimes we are left a shell of our former selves.
How long we have known someone, the amount of intimacy that has been shared with that person, and whether there has been ambivalence in the relationship can make a difference in the intensity of grief and how long one grieves. If we have been abused as a child by a parent who dies, it can take us by surprise to find such sorrow existing inside of us for someone we no longer even like. Not only are we grieving what we didn’t get from that person, but we also grieve the death of the dream we had of what could have been and the realization of what will never be. Some of us even blame ourselves for the failure of the relationship. We believe we should have been more as a person to make it work. We also try to still fix what cannot be fixed because we cannot make someone care for us.
So we learn to absorb the pain because we need to validate to ourselves we can still love and that love was good and authentic because we felt it and we gave, we gave from our hearts the most precious thing one person can give to another, the gift of ourselves as we really are. We come to accept what we can’t fix. It alters us, changes us in how we view ourselves and the world. The grief does not go away. It lives within us as a reminder of what not to do in the future. We learn lessons from those we have the courage to love. The following poem expresses this kind of grief: