GRIEF has been one of the themes of my life (and therefore my journal writing) during these last few years due to the loss of several of my family members — my mother and two of my brothers, among others. And one of the things I notice about grief is that it never really goes away. Rather, over time it integrates with an entire life experience, spreading out so that it isn’t felt quite as sharply as it once was, more like a dull ache. But I also notice that each time I suffer a significant loss, it triggers and awakens the aggregate grief of my life experience.
I was reminded of this aspect of sorrow today when I read Judy Miller’s post, “Loss: The Well of Grief” (unfortunately, the post is no longer available on the web). Judy wrote about the grief of losing one’s parents at an early age and how that affects adopted children throughout their lives. I recognized the truth of her words, because I also have an adopted daughter who, though happy and bonded to me and the rest of our family, bears the emotional scars of her loss, suffered so young she has no memory of it. And I think that any of us who lose parents, whether through divorce, adoption, death, or other reason are troubled by constant questioning. What if that had never happened? What if I had known my biological mother/father? What if I hadn’t lost my brother/sister? What if …? How would my life be different if …?
I know from personal experience that journaling about and through feelings of grief and loss (once we’re old enough to articulate them) is one of the best ways to reconcile oneself with the — dare I say it? — yes, gifts that loss brings with it. For each of us, those gifts may be different. For me, grief has brought measures of compassion, of grace, and temperance. There is an old saying that without sorrow there is no true joy. I don’t know if that is true or not, but I can say that the depth and breadth of my joy and gratitude is in direct proportion to the depth and breadth of the grief I have lived (and do live) through. And I’m not sure that I would be as aware of this if I had not been able to explore, in some fashion, the depth of both joy and sorrow through journal writing.
So, if you’re experiencing loss and grief, or sorrow from your past keeps getting triggered, I encourage you to bring your thoughts and feelings to pen and paper (or whatever you like to write/draw with), explore what happened and its impact on your life, what its gifts might be for you personally, and how you can nurture those gifts into the future.