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Change is Grief and Grief is Change

By Heather O’Brien-Director of Volunteer and Bereavement Services

Change and loss are a given in the great journey of life, but we often save grief for the “big” losses like deaths of loved ones. There are many other losses we all experience every year in daily life. They may include moving, a child growing up, a relationship ending, or loss of a home or pet. The last few years of my life have included many changes including; divorce, the loss (leaving) of many co-workers, moving 3 times and relocating to Grand Rapids (without my 14 yr. old dog) to join Emmanuel Hospice. Even though none of these changes included the death of a loved one, this was the most loss and grief I had ever experienced at one time; even after working in Hospice for over 12 years.

Some losses are larger and some smaller but I don’t think size matters. When you have changes in life, they often include loss. If you are experiencing a change or transition in life, the question to ask is, “What loss do I need to grieve so that I can let go and move forward?”

Author Karla McLaren suggests we “let our bodies guide us” through the grieving that accompanies change and loss. The mind just doesn’t understand loss the way emotions and the body do, which is why we need them to lead the way during grief. This means connecting to all of the different emotions you are feeling and taking the time to feel them. It’s a “no-holds-barred” emergency honoring of all body and soul needs. Rest, tears, hunger, sleep, sunlight, solitude, company, drawing, writing, talking and prayer….whatever you truly need.

In the end, grief is an amazingly helpful emotion. It allows us to let go of anything that isn’t working, is no longer meant to be in our daily lives, or is simply ready to be released. Then, grief allows us to discover what’s truly important to us, on a soul-deep level. It brings us ever-closer to knowing ourselves deeply, intimately, and lovingly. Nothing is more self-compassionate and self-healing than allowing our grief to flow. We (you and I) need to take care of ourselves and remember to treat any loss- old, new, big, small, or whatever it may be – as something that deserves to be grieved.