Monday marks the 8th anniversary of Michael's passing. It also marks 8 years of grieving for me. And, it has me thinking a lot about who I was 8 years ago vs. who I am today, because Michael's passing was the beginning of a long winding journey of grief...the loss of a father, the loss of a lover, the loss of another lover and the family and life I saw with them, the loss of three cats - one of which was my little soul mate, and more. Every loss was gut-wrenching in a different way. Each loss was completely unique to itself. Each loss required me to look at different aspects of myself - to look at the regrets and the sadness - to make different choices in the future.
I remember the pain of Michael's loss resurfacing 10 fold on the anniversary of his passing. I went to the place where we spread his ashes and took a drive, and then I spent 3 days in bed. I just couldn't with anything. I needed to lay in the grief; to swim in it and all that was surfacing. That Tuesday, when I got out of bed, I felt a little lighter, like maybe I could actually handle being out in the world rather than cocooned in my room. I felt lighter, because I gave myself permission to process and release free of judgement.
Grief never really leaves us. It shifts and transforms, but when you love someone deeply, grief remains a constant, because the loss of possibility of what could have been remains. In my case, it isn't because I am holding on to the pain or the sadness of losing Michael, at this point, because in truth, after 8 years, I can say that has finally been released. I love him dearly, I always will, but I also love the person I have become, because of the loss I experienced. This doesn't mean that if I had a choice of him staying or going, I would choose him leaving. It means that I chose to heal and grow in ways I could not even imagine, because of the love and the loss I experienced. How we grieve is a choice. You can stay in the sadness and the pain or you can choose to rise above it - to visit it when it surfaces, but also to let it go once that particular piece of grief is ready to release.
Grief is a practice of self-awareness, self-love, gentleness, and kindness. It is an opportunity to learn how to love and be gentle with yourself in new ways.