Grief has been on my mind lately. Specifically, I have been thinking about how grief plays a part in mental health. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist this last week and she mentioned something interesting during our discussion about my ongoing struggle with depression. She said, “This is all part of your grieving process.” Up until that point, I hadn’t really considered myself as still grieving the loss of my marriage. I felt the depression was due mainly to the loneliness that plagues me day and night. However, upon further self-examination, I believe she is correct. I am not just grieving my broken marriage – I am grieving for the life I had envisioned for us, as well as for the person I thought I was.
While these thoughts were swirling around in my head this morning, I came across this quote:
“Grief is love’s souvenir. It’s our proof that we once loved. Grief is the receipt we wave in the air that says to the world: Look! Love was once mine. I love well. Here is my proof that I paid the price.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
This reminded me of the saying that “it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” I have questioned the truth of this thought many times over the last few years. In my experience, the love I have given so fully in my relationships has always led me to a place of grief. I have certainly not been convinced it is worth it. Finding that quote this morning put a different spin on things for me. I would not go so far as to say that grief should be worn as a badge of honor. However, grieving for a lost relationship shows how much I cared…how much I loved…how much I gave.
That is no small realization.
Grief is a part of life. Bad things happen to everyone: a relationship breaks, a loved one dies, or the rug gets pulled out from under us in some other monumental way. These experiences affect us on so many different levels – emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. For me, my grief over a deep love lost spiraled me into depression. My depression is centered around 1) not having someone to love and 2) not knowing who I am without having someone to love. That self-discovery piece, according to my psychiatrist, is part of my grief. It makes sense. I am grieving the life I expected to have as a wife and care giver. I was stripped of my identity the day I was stripped of my marriage.
This new way of looking at grief, and its subsequent manifestation in my depression, has reminded me that I did not lose myself. I did not lose my ability to love someone else. I did not lose my ability to love me. I know I have not lost that part of me because I have evidence that I have loved greatly in the past. I will only lose that and become bitter and jaded if I allow myself to do so.
I know there are so many people out there who have experienced far greater losses than my own. We all have our crosses to bear. My encouragement to myself and to anyone out there is this: Don’t give up. When you feel that your grief will swallow you whole, remind yourself that you are grieving because you loved. That loving person is still in there. I am not so foolish as to think or say that your lost loved one or relationship will be “replaced” someday. Nothing and no one can replace the loss of a dear one. However, if nothing else, allow that loving person inside you to show some grace and compassion to yourself.
My marriage failed miserably, but it was not for lack of trying. I gave everything I could. That is something no one can take away from me. I know I tried. I know I loved. Just because I wasn’t enough in the eyes of someone else, does not mean I don’t have worth. The other piece of my depression that I mentioned is not knowing who I am without having someone to love. I found a piece to that puzzle this morning. I am someone with a great amount of love to give. That is who I am. I have to give myself permission to accept that.
Grief does not mean the end. Depression does not mean the end. Keep going. Keep loving. Keep fighting.
I see you.