• Karen Curran

Gentle thoughts on grief

Some people think counsellors must 'have it altogether'. But we are human. Many of us reflect and do our best, but we are not immune. We all experience grief - and by all, I mean adults, young people and children. And so do animals and birds. Did you know that some birds, like lorikeets, mate for life? Recently I witnessed birdlife care and grief by fellow lorikeets over another lorikeet. It came to our garden because it felt safe, but it was dying. As I rescued and cared for the bird, wrapped in a little towel held gently to my chest in its last hours, the situation gave me cause to reflect on some grief that I carry within me. It happens to all of us. The challenge is to notice when grief stops you from functioning, or living, and when it is time for you to connect to some support to find a new way of navigating grief. You see, grief does not go away. There is no time-line on grief. We learn to change our relationship to the one we have lost - be it because of death, or in the changing of a relationship, or a family loss, or a loss of a dream or a job. Some grief may never be understood. Every person is unique and entitled to their own way of navigating grief.

I have worked with some who have lost a relationship to a child for various reasons. The child may now be an adult, but the grief is about the aching gap of the unknown, the confusion, the 'what ifs', regret and so much more. There is always a story on both sides. Our children are not ours to own - they are on loan to us. Our children must live their own lives and be accountable for what they do and think, including who they choose to forgive or show compassion to. This is a hard concept to accept. We do not control, nor own, our children. But we can bless them and send prayers/energy of peace for our loved ones, without expectation. And do our own best to live a life based on forgiveness, peace and compassion. Looking at the situation of someone who had to give up a child into the care of someone else ... there is the the situation of the birth mother who grieves, (even if they have hidden the grief from themselves), and the carer/foster parent/adoptive parent who also grieves. The child also grieves over the confusion of multiple loyalties, even if they were moved for their own personal safety. In most cases, because there were never any healthy attachments, the child and the carer/adopter parent have to navigate new ways of being. New ways of feeling safe and comfortable, all in the best interests of the child. And so there is a grief for what might have been, and a grief for what was lost in everyone. There are women who have had to give up a child in secret. This was indeed common in years gone by, as single mothers were very much unsupported. Additionally, they carry a sense of loss, shame and a feeling of failure and lack of self worth. Abuse - including sexual, or domestic violence, or abandonment - causes another kind of grief for children and adults. There is a deep grief and loss that is carried here as well. And both children and adults can carry grief over the loss or death of their pets and loved ones that they cared for, but did not get to say goodbye to. If they have not had some kind of honouring or 'ceremony' to say goodbye to their pet or loved one, they carry this grief also. Sometimes a simple ceremony with acknowledgement and a candle is enough to bring peace and let go of the uncalled for guilt.

Grief is complicated and there are no rules or timelines as each has an individual experience.

As you REFLECT GENTLY on what grief means to you, what can you do that can give you a sense of peace today? Remember, go GENTLY and with self compassion, kind understanding and self-forgiveness. I hope this gentle reflection has been of service to you. May it bless you.


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