“Let it go” was popular long before every child on the planet learned that song from the animated Queen Elsa. Letting go is often synonymous with getting over something or moving on. It seems to be inexpensive, over the counter medicine for grief.
But we all know that letting go is much easier said than done, though the person giving the advice may think it’s easy! But maybe the notion of letting go is not only simplistic, maybe it needs to be re- thought, so the grief journey could make a little more sense.
Many grief counselors and therapists note that it is far more useful and realistic to say yes to grief. To acknowledge it, to give it proper respect and care, and to let the grief process help us heal.
Here are some ways to say yes to grief:
- Allow yourself time and space to feel the pain; no manning up or being stoic
- Avoid things that mask the pain—chemicals, food, or even extended periods of self- pity (which is a different thing from grief and pain)
- Share your grief with others, don’t believe that voice in your head that says no one will listen; someone will
- Recognize that grief is the normal response to loss and that it is part of loving
- Know that to be emotionally healthy we must experience all the natural emotions
That is the “Yes” to grief. The other part is “and.”
In improvisational theatre, the actors learn the principal of “Yes, and.” It means that one actor will start the scene by throwing out a line, and the second actor will go with it, not negating it, but adding to it in some way.
First actor: I found this crab washed up on the beach.
Second actor: Yes, and I have a Crab Relocation business in my kitchen.
Silly and fun, but the concept of saying “Yes, and” is an invaluable tool for thinking about the grief journey. We must say yes to our grief, give it is due, allow our self to feel those emotions, while keeping in mind there is an “and.”
Grief can feel so overwhelming that it might seem that there is nothing and will never be anything but sadness. But if we can bear in mind that there is an “and”, there is life on the other side, we can find hope. We don’t have to rush to that “and” we can just trust that it is there.
Actually, the “and” is happening even when we don’t notice it. The fact that the world goes on sometimes seem cruel, but that is actually the good news of “and.” The world is continuing, and so am I even during this time of grief. Every step I take during grief is serving to make my new reality. With time, not only will I see what else is happening and have energy to receive it, but I will also be able to see what has been happening all along and know that I have been preserved and sustained by the continual flow of life.
Grievers should know that letting go does not mean that someday out there you will never feel pain again. In fact it may be that you never completely “get over it.” But you will find life again.
On the other side of “and”.