At the start of 2016, I had a perfect life. My family was supportive and loving, and I shared my life with an incredible boyfriend.
Within three months, I had experienced multiple losses that left me feeling shattered, broken, and alone. My father died, my boyfriend left me, and by the start of April, I found myself crying on a yoga mat in an empty studio apartment.
In that moment I wanted many things, the least of which was to start the grieving process.
I resisted grieving for many reasons. I told myself I needed to be strong; I believed that in order to do this I needed to soldier on and ignore that the most important parts of my life had fallen apart. I told myself I could rely on my own strength to get through this. In retrospect, this only prolonged my suffering.
Looking back, I've realized that my real resistance to grief was the resistance to accepting these losses as reality. The longer I held off on grieving, the longer I believed that I could wake up and this would all be a bad dream.
There comes a pivotal point in every grieving process where you have only two options: to live in pain or begin to move forward.
In a beautiful moment of clarity, I realized that the strongest thing I could do for myself was to allow myself to feel everything: the sadness, the joy, the hate, the love, the regret and the tenderness. I needed to experience it all fully and transform it into something greater than myself.
In the process of doing this, I've seen first hand how gaining the strength and courage to begin the grieving process can lead to a life of meaning, beauty, and deep connection.
I've also learned a few important steps in the grieving process.
Allow yourself to grieve on your own terms and trust in the healing process.
I always thought that losing someone close to me would destroy me, and at times I felt like it did.
When I finally accepted that I would start grieving by any means necessary, I made the conscious commitment to have faith in a future that had me feeling happy and fulfilled. This simple act of faith paved the way for me to begin doing the deep and difficult work of grieving.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. In my experience, developing a support system that suits you and trusting in it fully is a powerful first step. Whether this takes the form of a therapist, a support group, a healer, or a creative process, know that in taking this first step, you will create the space for a miraculous shift in your experience.
Allow yourself to feel what you feel.
There is nothing shameful about any of the feelings or emotions that come up for you while grieving.
When I was in the thick of my grieving process, I tried to ignore the emotions that I felt were undesirable. I labeled loneliness and fear as “important” emotions to focus on while trying to ignore the “uglier” feelings like hate and anger. In doing this, I left a huge gap in my healing process. It was like trying to solve a puzzle while leaving half the pieces in the box.
Find a space or an outlet where you feel safe and supported to let these emotions out, and process them on your own terms. Allow yourself to feel them fully, and make peace with each part of your experience in order to reclaim your full self.
Understand that grief will be your teacher.
One day I was crying on the phone to a dear friend of mine. I wanted to know how to just stop all of this suffering in my life. In all of her brilliance, she offered me a piece of advice that will stay with me forever: “sit down, close your eyes, breathe, and repeat this: 'pain is my guru.'”
We often forget that pain offers us the exact guidance we need the most.
Commit to something that allows you to live in the moment.
When we are grieving, it can be easy to be pulled out of the moment. We think about beautiful moments in the past that we will never again experience, or we think about a future without our loved one in it. Both perspectives make it difficult to see a different perspective.
One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself in the healing process is to develop a practice or interest that helps you live in the moment. Whether this is meditation, exercise, journaling, music, or some other activity that has you feeling present, commit to showing up for it every single day.
Once you do this, you will begin to see that there is hope, wisdom, strength and beauty available to you in every moment that you choose to see it.
There is a beautiful realization on the other side of grief. What is real can never be destroyed.
The love we felt for those in our lives can never be lost, threatened, tainted or tamed. When we choose to move forward with our whole hearts, we bring forward all the beauty and magic of those that have left us.
We carry with us the greatest parts of those we lost. We allow our amazing experiences to live on by incorporating their beauty into our every thought, word and action.