In a recent post, I mentioned having been in the midst of some very significant grief — and that I’ve been working on building my resilience. And since I’ve made transparency and vulnerability a priority — both in my personal life and my professional practice — I’d like to share a bit about that grief.
It’s been just over two years since my brother’s death. And I’ve encountered a lot of surprising triggers in recent days. That’s the surprising thing about grief — you think you’ll get through it, but lo and behold, there are triggers you just don’t see coming.
Navigating this season has reminded me of how important it is to be aware of grief. Specifically, yes, but also generally. Everywhere we go, we’re bumping up against grief, whether we know it or not. So many people have had so many losses. I’m talking about Big-L Loss and small-l loss, about Big-T Trauma and little-t trauma. Every one of us is carrying trauma and grieving loss.
I find that at times like these, when I’m overcome by grief, I want to do things:
- I want to isolate (which is normal), and
- I want others to reach out to me (especially my beloved husband).
Sometimes, as the person who is grieving, we don’t know what we want. It can be so difficult to articulate. It’s important for the partner of the bereaved to ask, “what do you need?”
While I was feeling my way around my grief, my husband, Eric, fumbled at first. But he got there. He was so kind and gentle in turning towards me, as the Gottmans teach. Even though I didn’t want to turn towards. I wanted to stay lost in my own jungle of thoughts. I wanted to stay in my isolated cave. Eric waited patiently until I was ready to talk and turn towards. As he was being patient, I realized that’s what I needed: patient, tender care as I figured out what I needed.
If you are moving through trauma and loss and grief, trust that your beloved will welcome you with open arms and give you what you need. Or if your partner is the one grieving, offer them that kind of patient, tender care, however they need it.
For me, what I needed depended on the day — a night out with friends, an afternoon spent with my partner and friends, and one night simply being held by my partner.
The simple act of listening and waiting and turning towards bids for connection made all the difference for me as I moved through my grief.
I’d encourage you to do the same.