It’s What We Don’t Talk About That Hurts Us

I woke early one morning last week to find the sun streaming through a maple tree outside my bedroom window, one of the last to hang on to its lacy yellow hands.

As the rising light illuminated the leaves, I thought of my dad.

I’ll never be able to share the beauty of this earth with him again in this lifetime I realized as I lay in bed taking in the late autumn show.

Grief is like a shadow you can’t shake. As I go about my daily routine, one minute I feel normal as I drop packages off at the post office or pick up food at the grocery store. The next, reality hits and I feel bowled over by a wave of sadness that rushes through me, leaving behind a hollow space in my chest as the pain retreats.

As difficult as grief is, there’s also something beautiful about tending to this experience in my life. Grief invites presence. These days I find myself walking slowly and deliberately through the day, noticing the nuances that make life special – a mom on the street talking sweetly to her little boy, or the way sunlight dances on the reservoir behind our home.

Along with my sadness, I also feel like I’m living in a state of appreciation. I’m grateful for friends who check in and for those brave enough to look death in the eye and ask about what it feels like to lose a father.

My father.

I spent so many years worrying about him and his failing health that his passing has left a giant hole in my consciousness, a space that I hope to fill with memories and a new kind of relationship that transcends this physical world.

In the meantime, I’m realizing that we’d all benefit from making grief a friend instead of an enemy. We’re so afraid of death and loss – an inevitable reality for us all – that I feel the need to write about it here in the hopes that it alleviates some of the fear.

Grief is healing. Necessary. Important. What we’ve loved and lost is worthy of our sorrow. I’m learning to embrace it as a new part of my world, to include it in my conversations, and I invite you to do the same.

After all, it’s what we don’t talk about that hurts us.


Video of the Week

Here’s a bittersweet video of a father and his daughter singing one of my favorite songs. You can watch it here.

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Comments

Rayofhelios 3rd December 2016 12:27 pm

Hello Cheryl,

I read your beautiful writing. And your conclusions are correct...all of it. There are infinite numbers of things "People" do not talk about. Death and grief?

I don't want to take away from your grief. I do want to talk about the greater "Principle" of what you say which was expressed in your title..."It's what we don't talk about that hurts us."

I "Was" a hospice nurse for 22 years. I have heard a great deal of talk about death and grief. When my mother died in 2013, I quit hospice.

Ironically, I chose correctional nursing as an alternative. NOW, let's talk about the Natural consequences of, not only talking about what right in front of us to deal with, but also outright denying natural consequences of hiding, lying and cheating (this refers to people responding to what exists in WORKING FOR the prison).

It's a harsh environment, and I learned then...the true purpose of denial. It...also...has its place in the dynamic called
Compassion. It also take courage to deny UNTIL there is courage to speak. It takes time.

You found yours! That is precious!

Athanasia 3rd December 2016 5:12 pm

Thank you Cheryl, you managed to put into words exactly what I am feeling , but could never express. I lost my father exactly a year ago. I have made grief my friend.
The sadness never leaves. I miss him.
Athanasia from Greece

Lisabette 4th December 2016 7:40 pm

I have had a different experience. My father was both a warm, generous, artistic and humorous person and also unbalanced, toxic, judgmental, depressed and angry. It seems hard to believe someone could be both, he truly was. And sometimes all within a short period of time. He suffered with poor health in his last years and when he passed he was totally spent, nothing left. But I truly believe that he is restored now to his true self and is having a wonderful experience in a different dimension. So when I think of him now, I am happy FOR him because he is free from suffering and is in an exciting stage of existence. I was so overwhelmed with him in his last few years because I was the only family member nearby, so that I lived in a state of anxiety, and I started to see him only as the powerless, angry and feeble person he had become. But I've gotten past that in the two years since he's been gone, and now when I think of him I only remember the good, the laughter, music and art, and I give him a smile.

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Author Information

Cheryl Richardson

Cheryl Richardson is the author of The New York Times bestselling books, Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, The Unmistakable Touch of Grace and her new book The Art of Extreme Self Care. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation and holds one of their first Master Certified Coach credentials.

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