Grief Kuel Thought Leader: Lisa Michelle Zega
Grief is commonly called heartbreak and is the heart’s response to loss.
Everyone experiences forms of heartbreak. We usually associate it with the end of a relationship through death, divorce, or breakup. Heartbreak occurs in response to other losses too. All losses occur in the context of relationships; to ourselves, others, and God.
Even though each of us experiences heartbreak, we do not really know what it’s like for each other. To really know is impossible because people are unique, relationships are unique, and each person’s experience of heartbreak is unique. We only know our own experiences – what our hearts feel during our losses.
“It is more helpful to admit that we don’t know how the other feels and just be there in our shared sadness and not knowing.”
“I know exactly how you feel”, is a well-intentioned sentiment but it is as meaningful as “We wear the same size shoe”. Each woman has a different foot, there are many types of shoes, they fit differently and no woman really knows what it is to be in the shoe of the other.
Instead of creating community, connection, and healing, this well-meaning expression adds to the isolation a grieving person feels. It is more helpful to admit that we don’t know how the other feels and just be there in our shared sadness and not knowing.
Vulnerability Creates Connection:
It is supportive when we say, “I don’t know how you feel. I only know how I felt when that happened to me. I’m here”. This vulnerability creates connection. In other words, connection is what we need to heal.
Unprocessed losses are held as incomplete emotional stories and undelivered communication. This creates disconnection within ourselves. Something inside us feels unfinished like it was cut off before it was completed. Maybe this is why we use the term heartbreak to describe our grief. It feels like we are broken away from ourselves, our story, and our person.
Emotional incompleteness shows up in our words like: “I don’t know”, “I wish”, “If only”, feelings like: agitatation, upset, isolation and sensations like: blocked, numb, tender.
Again, the connection is needed for healing. Connection to our story, body, feelings, sensations, and others.
Feelings Of Withdrawal:
Since there is so much unhelpful information around grief and loss we are tempted to feel like there is something wrong with us which evokes shame, and leads to isolation.
This is problematic because healing happens in the community. So being alone is the opposite of what we need. But what society inadvertently tells us to do. The embedded messages, if you are sad, be sad alone, nobody wants a Debbie Downer and get back to being your old self so others can feel good again; all create a sense of pressure to perform so people don’t feel uncomfortable. That sense of pretending makes us feel more alone and reinforces feelings of withdrawal.
“Grieving is our normal and natural response to loss.”
In isolation, we are often overwhelmed by the sense that we aren’t equipped to handle this, which again evokes the shame that there is something wrong with us and our suffering is intensified.
Nothing Is Wrong With Us:
It is imperative that we know that there is truly nothing wrong with us. Grieving is our normal and natural response to loss.
But feeling like there is something wrong with us is completely normal and common to most grieving people.The messages in society that we need to feel better; that time will magically heal us; that feeling bad is wrong and when we feel bad it should be done in private; that we must be strong for others; and that crying shows weak faith are so pervasive that any thoughts and feelings that oppose these norms seem like it is because there is something wrong with us. The truth is these concepts about grief are false.
“A grieving person requires a loving, supportive, compassionate, listening witness.”
Griever Is Not Broken:
The griever is not broken and does not need to be fixed. She needs to be heard. She needs to complete the incomplete story that her losses have written in her bones.
Moreover, she needs to discover how the emotion of the relationship(s) lives in her so that the emotional energy can be shifted and the story of hope and joy be written instead. And because loss occurs in relationships, this rewriting must be done in the presence of at least one other. A grieving person requires a loving, supportive, compassionate, listening witness.
Reconnect With Ourselves:
When we give space for our feelings to surface and metabolize our grief with another by completing the emotional story living in us, we reconnect with ourselves, another, and our story.
In the safe space of being seen, known, and accepted, we let go of the regret, guilt, and bitterness of the past and release the worry, anxiety, fear, and doubt of the future. We find healing for our heartbreak. Peace in the present. And even joy through our heartbreak.
About the Author:
Lisa Michelle Zega is a Life Coach for Midlife Women of faith who are starting over after the death of a spouse or a divorce and are struggling with sadness and self-doubt. She helps them metabolize grief to retain all the nutrients, learning and wisdom and release the waste, so they can begin again with joy and confidence.
She was married to a pastor, divorced after 23 years of marriage and her boys stopped talking to her for nearly 6 years. Zega later buried a fiancé 5 months before their wedding day. She now lives with her handsome biker hubby, adorable Jack Russel and creative stepson outside of Los Angeles and enjoys a renewed relationship with her grown sons.
She’s a devoted Minnesota Vikings fan, enjoys people, loves to hike, read, travel and embraces the fullness of life — the joy, sorrow and all the in between. You can find more about Lisa Michelle at Legityou.com or Lisamichelle.legityou on Instagram.