Lost and Found – Grief and Survival

Lost and Found – Katie Herzig

‘Lost and Found.’ Such a torrential, self-evidential lyric. What’s the point? In our deepest losses is where we find our deepest and truest selves. As hard as it is to accept, it is true. Grief is the thing that crushes us and squeezes out more pain than we ever knew we had while pushing us closest to ourselves. What’s a girl to do?

My Grief Story

Simply  put, I lost four family members when I was 19 years old and at 21 I nearly died myself in a car accident when rear-ended on a highway while I was pulled over looking at a map. From there it set the tone. Grief had a place in my mind and life. Grief over the loss of others. Grief over the loss of health and state of life. Grief over the time it would take to recover.

Furthermore, you don’t travel the world and move back and forth between countries or live a transient expat’s life without feeling grief over the goodbyes and learning to deal with it. I’ve learned, over and over, how to contend with this feeling, and even anticipate and plan for it – not that this is easy, but I have learned. One key thing that I’ve learned is that every single circumstance asks something different of you. Every relationship and situational loss is grieved differently and life circumstances at the point of grieving cause you to respond differently, with more or less resilience.

In the past year, several losses in death and relationship combined with the arrival of my 50th birthday propelled me to take actions on things I had long been procrastinating on – writing a book (books), getting fit, sorting out health issues, spending time with family and prioritizing the very things that were stressing me out at work and in my personal life. Meditation became a huge part of my response. Additionally, I have been listening to callers and counselling people for many years – many of them suffering from various causes of grief and loss. It is one of the most prominent themes in life.

In fact, the ability to cope with loss and the loneliness surrounding grief (and our silence around it) serves us. These are some of the ways I have learned to cope with grief, and it is on this basis that I offer these thoughts as a starting reflection on the management of grief.

Deep Loss and Grief

Here at How Women Heal, we embrace therapy. We embrace psychology and introspection. We embrace the highs and lows of life because life is full of them. In particular, we embrace the existential questions that arise after the deep loss that comes when someone leaves us…by death or by choice. It is a deep loss, and grief is a personal process that leaves us tumbling like we’re in a waterfall, completely overwhelmed, bewildered and drowning at first.

Then somewhere in that terrible free fall where we’re gulping in gallons of our own tears and snot is running down our faces, and we don’t care, because – dammit – the world has changed, the very meaning of life has changed, the very essence of what was good has gone, and now what? That pain is raw and never quite goes away though we learn to somehow orient ourselves upward (ie. stand up) in the falling – feet first we go and we’ll land in that cesspool of our emotions and start to swim, at some point, however badly. It’s a metaphor, of course, for survival.

How to Cope With Loss

Grief in the Beginning

Some of us, like Katie Kerzig, write beautiful songs and rage in them and can play them later then as loud as we like when the torrents of grief return. Some of us make art, cook, email letters, talk with loved ones and have conversations that would read like poetry if we wrote them down. Some of us throw stones and run endlessly or drive down streets wanting to die.* But we come back. Some of us grieve in the holy silence that the absence of another leaves us with. We cry and we bloody cry some more until we’re done for the day, on the days we feel like crying. We may or may not cry again soon. It might be days or weeks or months. We hold funerals or have rituals and then grieve and find comfort in being alone, with others, with nature or by shutting ourselves away in the worlds of movies, tv, books, work, the gym, whatever…not coming out for a long time. It is all fine. It’s normal. You are normal. 

* NOTE: If you are feeling distressed and unable to cope, please reach out to someone. Samaritans is a 100% confidential service based in the UK and US, available internationally. You can reach them via a myriad of ways including telephone, drop-in (UK and US) and email. I have volunteered for this agency for years. The support is 24/7, free and excellent. You do not need to be suicidal to speak to someone at Samaritans.

Grief Over Time

In the heat of a loss and in the darkest hours of our grief, life in the real world can feel like death in the real world. But you may have noticed…the real world carries on and somehow that carries us along. Ordinary routines that are a nuisance or burden at first become the props that hold us up.

We may go through the daily deal half in and out of the world, but at least we’re not crying or thinking every waking moment about what happened, what didn’t happen, what should have happened, what should not have happened. There are plenty of moments we’ll suddenly find ourselves grieving. We can switch off some of the time. And then we can’t and we’re triggered by something and back in it. This is the tumultuousness of grief. 

Grief can be long and lonely. But it’s an invitation to bring in love (or support). This will come if you open your heart and let someone in the wings know you need them. But, oh, sometimes we can’t find the strength or the courage to say it. What if we look…weak?

Wot? as they say in Manchester, England.

What is this kind of thinking, love?

Remember: our human brokenness is also our greatest opportunity to grow, because it demands such vulnerability and courage. So, at some point, we reach and see what life gives back. 

Baby steps.

No one who has loved and lost deeply moves through this quickly. These losses are important. There is almost an inner compulsion to honour the dead and gone or the beautiful relationship or the parts of yourself that you sacrificed for the relationship by staying with this feeling for as long as it takes, and that is fine. Ever considered that you can be happy and grieve simultaneously? Happiness is not static.

Understanding Where You’re Struggling

The current discourse on mental health is that we can be mentally stressed in one area of our lives while also being ‘healthy’ and functioning in other areas of our lives. Now there’s a thought. The Canadian government beautifully highlights this with a short test that is worth taking…if only to highlight specifically which areas of your life you could do with a little more help in. Surprisingly,  you might find you’re coping better than you think you are. Whatever the case, armed with information that isn’t about stigmatizing but is about helping you to see what’s going on in precise terms with your old heart and mind, you can take some actions to heal, right?

Doing the right things – and you can list out what would be right for you, can’t you? – doesn’t mean you’re going to feel better right away, or consistently. But in a way, doesn’t it feel good to wallow in  (let’s correct the language here) FEEL the pain for just a bit? Doesn’t it feel good to stop the world and and get off for a bit to put front and centre your heart and mind, and the one/s you love? Yes. Do you want to know why? Because you’re honouring something special that you had, and that’s important. There are hidden lessons in that for you. Loss teaches us what we value and sometimes it’s just good (necessary) to stop the world and get off, go within and change things around.

How to Survive – Finding the Balance

The hardest thing in the world is to find the balance between respecting that and taking care of your heart, soul, body and mind while you move forward through the days, months and years. But move forward you must, because something in you – in almost all of us – is compelled to live. You are a strong woman – stronger than you may feel or know some days. There is a part of you that just gets on with it, moves through it, honours it (or maybe you don’t but you want to) and you are a woman with a grace you may or may not know yet. 

You have your own reasons for holding on, picking up the pieces, breathing, seeking out the ones you love who are here today, looking to the good in your life, dreaming again even if in bits and pieces and fragments, and even if those dreams aren’t quite formulated yet. We have an incredible capacity to hold a lot of pain and also to transcend it. Life is a great leveler…paired up with time. Give these sadnesses enough time and eventually the aperture of grief closes while the window of life opens up and good things seep in or suddenly land on our laps and take us by surprise.

It’s a Personal Process – You Will Find Your Way

Grief. It’s a personal process. I would never patronize you by suggesting it isn’t. But it’s one I understand well and believe we can live with and work through while the rest of our lives are happening. I like to think it’s like a creative process…learning how to live anew. You get to decide. 

There are commonly understood phases. These phases aren’t linear and nor are they named the same by those who write about grief. We move in and out of various aspects of grief as life and anniversaries trigger us. Understanding these phases and utilizing resources can be of help.

Here’s one of my favorites:

The year the first love of my life and I parted ways, many years ago, someone suggested I read How to Survive the Loss of a Love. It’s funny that that old book still comes to mind for me, but it held great wisdom, particularly concerning the ending of relationships. It is a great reminder that there are three key phases of grief: survival, healing and growth. Sometimes, they overlap. For more on this, look at this list of ideas on how to survive the loss of a love. Very practical. It elaborates on:

  • support from friends and family
  • physical exercise
  • the stability of daily life tasks
  • pleasurable activities
  • the power of laughter
  • sleep, rest and deep relaxation
  • pamper yourself
  • improve yourself
  • avoid harmful substances
  • time to grieve
  • mementos to the back
  • avoid the blame game
  • beware of the rebound
  • good nutrition to fortify your body
  • meditation and/or prayer to lift the spirit
  • seek counselling
  • get immediate help if feeling suicidal

If there’s anything I can do to help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Wishing you peace of mind, wherever you are in your journey with grief. You’re alive. You’re human! You’re never alone with these feelings. A lot of people are walking around aggrieved. Feel the range of your feelings and love yourself through the hard moments especially. There are better days and one day you’ll feel closer to right again. I promise. I know.

PS. Here are two great live videos of this beautiful song. Enjoy.

Lost and Found – Katie Herzig

I know you left me standing there
Out of the calm of the coldest air
I don’t believe the words you said
But I can’t find the words I want
Oh, I can’t find the words I want

If you were gone in another life
I don’t believe I would just survive
I could feel you next to me
An escape from the world I’m in
Oh, I’m afraid of the world I’m in

One day I will see heaven’s reach
I’ll find the one who left me sleeping
Every war was another seed
That could feed every soul in need
Oh, I’m worn by the war in me

Somebody found me here
Somebody held my breath
Somebody saved me from the world you left
If you’re gonna cry my tears
If you’re gonna hold my breath
If you’re gonna let me see the sun you set
Oh, I am lost and found
Oh, I am lost and found

2 Replies to “Lost and Found – Grief and Survival”

  1. Margaret, I’m so glad to reconnect with you. Look what social media can do for us. It’s good to have you here, and your healing is for you but affects everyone around you – including me. Many thanks for dropping a note. x

  2. All I can say is thank you for adding me to this amazing page of yours. You have no idea how much you have impacted my life and gave me hope and strength again.

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