So many emotions. My mind was all over the place. I had flown halfway across the country to attend the funeral of my 92 year old uncle who had died after a fierce and long battle with cancer. I thought I was going on this journey to show support for my Aunt and my cousins. I was 'at peace' with the fact he was no longer in pain. I expected to feel sad and to miss my own dad a bit more than normal after losing him 28 years ago, but I didn't expect to feel everything else I felt. Where did it come from?
I was overwhelmed by the myriad of emotions we call grief. Bouncing between the joyful memories of years past....to shedding tears of sadness for my relatives whose daily lives will feel that huge void that is left behind after we lose someone close to us... to profound empathy for how my Aunt, who had lost her spouse of over 60 years, would feel when the dust settled, and the craziness of the services when they ended. I felt admiration for the legacy my Uncle had created with his wife and their kids and grandkids.
As I sat in the church today, truly sobbing, I listened to my cousin read a beautiful eulogy about my Uncle Frank. He was such a kind man - worked hard, fought in a war, raised 5 amazing kids I call 'cousin-friends' and was a loving & loyal husband. He was a grandpa to 7 adult-grandkids who are embracing life's opportunities. Near and dear to my heart, was his loyalty to the New York Giants, a common interest with my late dad, from whom I inherited my loyalty to Big Blue. Though I haven't seen Uncle Frank in two years, I can clearly see his smiling face in my mind and can hear his voice - with a strong NJ accent - calling my (childhood) nickname....Laurie. I was overwhelmed with sadness and tears. I caught myself wondering if those around me wondered why I was so sad. I was 'just his niece'. I hadn't lived in the same State or seen my Uncle beyond holidays and special occasions in over 27 years. And I still loved him and felt loved by him, so I allowed myself to wonder about my tears, and try to understand why they felt deeper than I expected.
I realized I was in the thick of grief. It's confusion. It's power. The weight of it on my heart. I felt my brain battling with it, telling me 'he was better off' and 'geeze, why so sad?', anything to get away from the discomfort of the sadness.
As a licensed couple's therapist, my job is to help people slow down, feel their emotions and be curious about their experience. I was aware my 'therapist' brain was kicking in and telling me to do the same. What else might be causing these tears? I realized how how deeply I was empathizing for everyone who loved Uncle Frank. I could feel the ache in my heart for my Aunt, imagining the scope of her emotions as she imagined her life alone for the first time in 62 years. For my cousins, who were facing life 'without dad' for the first time in their lives. And for the rest of us who felt so blessed to be in his family and to be known by him. Empathy hurts. 'Not' feeling it would have felt better. But I couldn't push it away. Feeling empathy for them allowed me to feel close to them and let them know I really care for them. The only way to push it away would have been to harden to it and not think about Uncle Frank. That just wasn't an option for me. I loved him too much. It only made sense I would hurt this much too. Loving someone can hurt, but it's worth it.
If you are dealing with grief from the loss of a loved one or for any other reason, we are here to help you through it. Reach out to us today and let us help you work through your emotions.