Understanding the stranglehold of Big Grief

Worried man blues

We are hard-wired for connection and when a meaningful connection is severed – be it someone who has held a special place in our personal firmament of love and affection or someone who has betrayed and abandoned us — we feel devastating loss.

Loss of this magnitude births grief – grief for what was, what is now and what will never be. Big Grief brings you to your knees. How can the world continue to spin when your world has stopped?
Inside, you can’t stop howling. Night after night, you howl until your voice is gone. You sleepwalk through your days, unable to connect the dots of your new reality. You barely function. You sit on the edge of hysteria.

Grief places a stranglehold on your heart. Your world contracts and constricts. You can’t take a deep breath. Grief holds your breath in shallow field now made fallow with loss. It’s impossible to unclench the tension that locks your body in pain and, even, fury. Your days and night wind endlessly in an ever-tightening knot held buoyant by your tears. Everything has been squeezed out of you. It hurts. It hurts like hell.

It’s hard to imagine there is life beyond your exploded heart. How can you possibly merge back into the cacophony of dailiness and demands when your life has been captured by grief? The hollowness, the memories, the break-downs, the images, the gut-wrenches, the what-ifs have kneed you into a tight, dark corner.

The pain, akin to a high fever, has kept you writhing and sobbing in unrelenting deliriums. The raging intensity of the hot pain eventually crescendos and breaks. You are left shivering in disbelief. You re-enter the world, shaky and vulnerable. Blinking and staring blankly, you emerge with a heightened sensitivity to everything around you. You feel fragile and raw, as if you are wearing new skin. You want blankets and covers and comfort. You take in nourishment and emotional sustenance, spoonful by spoonful.

Your re-emergence cannot be rushed. A part of you has died and another part of you is being reborn. Your struggle has been enormous, one that has left you hanging perilously close to the edge. You have been so very brave.

The splinters of your shattered heart were deeply embedded in your psyche. Slowly and painfully, you extracted their pierced shards. You laboriously pieced together, tiny bit by tiny bit, a new heart, spread-eagled by pain and re-imagined with love and courage.

It has taken a Herculean force of will and enormous personal strength to break out of the tight, madness-filled constriction of grief and to move beyond the darkness.

The world is no longer the same. You are no longer the same. You have new eyes with which to discern the essentials of life. You see more deeply; you can read the soul. You swim in depths heretofore out of your reach because you have learned to hold the tension of opposites.

No longer are you constricted by grief. Now, you can take a deep breath. Now, you are ready, albeit gingerly, to embrace life once again.

The loss of your loved one does not disappear or evaporate, nor is it diminished. Your loss is re-configured. Your grief has been absorbed and incorporated into your being. It’s a forever part of you that has re-arranged your being on a cellular level.

This Big Grief has expanded your heart – a heart that now has the capacity to cradle both the light and the dark.

You have broken the stranglehold.

This article also appeared on The Huffington Post Canada under the title “You Can Survive the Torture of Big Grief.”

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