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Slices of Life

The complexities of grief-part 2

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Last week, this column touched on the topic of complicated grief. It’s defined as a grief that includes a heightened state of mourning that keeps one from healing. 

When you heal from an injury, that injury exists no more. The same can’t be said about grief. Grief never goes away. It never quite fully heals. I think it would be wrong if it did. 

Grief doesn’t die because love doesn’t die. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that.

In that regard, grief defies definition. It defies labels.

But we try. We try to define grief and put it in a box, because it’s neater that way and if we create an actual definition that includes the word “complicated,” what, exactly, does that accomplish?

I think nothing, other than to set a certain set of grieving people apart from others with a label that somehow makes their grief different or worse (which is isn’t). Or perhaps it labels them as less able deal with grief (which they aren’t). Worst of all, maybe they are just weaker during grief than the rest of us (absurd).

When you have complicated grief, you aren’t able to move on like a normal grieving person. (What is a normal grieving person? What exactly is moving on?) You hang on to the memories and the life you lost. (Seriously, who doesn’t?)

And this makes you complicated because you experienced a love so deep that you just can’t get over it within the given timeline. (Who sets these timelines?)

Don’t let anyone fool you or guilt you into thinking you aren’t doing grief the right way. Don’t let people tell you your grief is more complicated – or simple – than anyone else’s. A person experiencing simple (or regular) grief did not love any less deeply than a person with complicated grief. 

Grief is grief - whether it’s labeled as simple, normal, regular or complicated. But, it doesn’t have to define you. You don’t have to become its definition. Don’t succumb to that rhetoric. 

Your grief is your grief - nothing more, nothing less. It may be unending. It is likely infinitely deep. It may be with you every moment of every day. It’s probably complicated. But not in a definitive sense. It is complicated because grief, quite simply, is complicated.

And that is okay. No, it isn’t okay, but it is okay that you and your life aren’t okay right now. It sucks. It hurts. It may even be devastating. It’s probably complicated. That’s okay, too. 

Because life is complicated. Love is complicated. Choosing what to make for dinner tonight is complicated. And none of that makes you different, or slower than most. None of it means you are doing anything wrong.

It’s impossible to do grief wrong. Just like it’s impossible to cure grief.

I almost wish that weren’t true: that a label or pill or other simple solution could fix it. Could fix us. Then we could forget about grief and eat cotton candy for breakfast. Wouldn’t that be great?

But that isn’t real life. Real life is complicated. Losing someone is nothing, if it is not complex - and complicated.

And hard. And sad. And overwhelming. And life-changing. 

To survive grief is to say goodbye to the life of someone you loved and give birth to the life of a new you. 

If that isn’t complicated, well, I guess I don’t understand what complicated is.

My message here is to not let anyone define you. We are quick to put labels on whatever and whomever doesn’t fit a certain pre-defined box. Grief, like so many things in life, defies definition.

It would be so much easier it this weren’t true. It we could simply slap a label on it.

But life isn’t simple. Grief isn’t simple. None of it is simple. None of us is simple.

But there is beauty in that, if you are willing to see it. There is newness. There are possibilities - albeit ones you never saw coming and never really wanted – before. But they are possibilities nonetheless.

Embrace them. Even when it is difficult. Even when grief feels all-encompassing, and dare I say, complicated.

Easier days will come. Simpler days are on the horizon.

I promise. I hope.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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