Grief has been a big theme in my work lately. I’ve seen the pain that comes from a break-up with a partner that someone thought they’d be with forever, the distress of the student who failed a course and isn’t going to graduate when she thought, and the agony of a mother who lost her child. In each of these situations, there was a picture in that person’s head of how life was going to be, and it’s devastating when that picture gets shattered.
We all carry these pictures in our heads of what we want in life – it’s what drives our every behaviour. When our pictures become unattainable, it feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us, and we become lost. It’s like we are at sea, and we’ve lost the map to navigate our way home.
While we all experience this grief when these experiences happen to us, I’ve noticed that it’s those pictures in our head which determine if we are able to move forward, or whether we get stuck in our grief.
Some people hang on tightly to the picture of the life they wanted. They do not let go of what they’ve lost, and every day is spent trying to put one foot in front of the other when all they feel is heartbreak.
Some people decide to create a new picture. When the map gets lost, they pull out their crayons and sketch a new one. It’s not the same as the original, but it gives them some guidance and a destination to move towards. They are no less hurt by their loss, but they are able to find a different path forward. They don’t get what they need in the way they thought they would or the way they wanted to, but they can still get their needs met.
We never remove a picture from our mind. It’s always there, and when there is one that becomes unreachable, there’s always going to be some sadness about that. You don’t forget, and you don’t “get over it”. But what you can do is remember that there are many paths to living a good life, and keep yourself open to finding a new one.