Six years inside complicated grief taught me many things. Five of them I can put into words and onto paper. I have a feeling I will be learning from her the rest of my life.
Grief taught me that sometimes I don't have to let it go. I just have to let it out.
Through writing, through words, through movement, through tears, through screaming at the top of my lungs or whispering to the wind. The way into grief was very narrow, but the way through was up to me.
Grief taught me that releasing is not the same as relinquishing.
My grief is mine forever. When I release her into the world through words or conversation or tears, she is free to leave for a while or return right away, the same or changed but always welcome in this heart.
Grief taught me what it means to be vulnerable.
Not in the ways we choose to be vulnerable. The ways life tears down every wall we've built, every label we've claimed, every role we've identified with and reveals a broken, beating heart that is not sure if it wants to live or die.
With practice I realized that beyond the flood of tears there is the dock of another human heart waiting to hear what I have to say. And if I can brave the flood that makes me feel so exposed and vulnerable I will receive the gift of being seen and being heard.
Grief taught me I am not alone.
I didn't realize it then, but looking back I understand that even when no human could comfort me, mother nature was soothing me with her bright moons, wild oceans and dancing flowers. She was teaching me something about human nature, about darkness and light, about the cycle of life.
She was taking my words and echoing them back to me, blurring their edges on the journey so they sat a little softer in my soul upon returning.
Grief taught me loss expands before it shrinks.
The list of what I've lost is not just one line but pages long sometimes. Because I didn't just lose a human being I loved. I lost the sound of their feet in the hallway, the water running as they brush their teeth, the sight of their face down the hall, the sound of their voice on the phone, the ability to reach out and touch them.
Everyone's list is unique and endless. I try to honor the living by not turning away from their list of loss, by not telling them what it should contain, by not comparing my list to theirs.
This grief, she's like a mother to me. She birthed me into an experience I never asked for and many times was not sure I would survive. But together we make it through this life, stumbling and learning, mourning and celebrating, each step teaching us all we need to know about what it means to live, to love and to lose.
Monique Minahan writes about grief, loss and being human. She teaches yoga as a form of movement medicine. She believes in standing up to live before sitting down to write and listens to her heart before writing to keep her words alive and authentic. Connect with her at moniqueminahan.com and on social media here and here.