Is It Possible to Befriend Grief?

by Tom Peyton

For the past several months my grief counselor has encouraged me to look at grief from a different perspective. Instead of allowing it at times to crush my spirit, to hit me with an avalanche of tears or overwhelm me with sadness and pain, he suggested I view it as a friend. Initially I rejected the thought. How could I befriend something that took away the love of my life, my soulmate, the woman with whom I hoped to spend so many more years? Could I discover friendship from what I perceive to be my enemy? Let me emphasize that I am just over 9 months into my loss. The thought of doing this a few months ago was inconceivable. The thought even now leaves me somewhat skeptical. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to take on this suggestion and see if it is possible to befriend grief.

I have learned many valuable lessons from the veteran brothers in our group. My first few weeks and then first few months in this group – none of us ever wanted to join – were filled with pain and so many tears. I recall many brothers telling me to trust them; to give it a week and that with each week the pain would ease slightly. It has subsided to some degree but it still hurts. Grief can hit at any time, without warning and is triggered by so many memories, events or experiences that may or may not seem significant. After nine months I have learned that grief can debilitate and prevent me from living my life. I am not looking for a quick remedy for dealing with grief. I am coming to a realization that the process of healing involves me taking active steps to deal with my grief. The wisdom of Herb Knoll, Fred Colby and Terrell Whitener shows that being pro-0active means moving forward in life and learning how to confront, and I dare to say, befriend grief.

I don’t have a plan or a methodology or a solution for confronting grief and converting it into a friend. What I have done is take a couple of small steps still early in my journey that are helping, me to heal. These two very small steps have enabled me to find a purpose and develop a routine in my everyday life as I attempt to discover the new me.

I rescued a large dog a few months ago and he has become a great companion. He was abandoned on the side of the road and as I sadly recently discovered was beaten by his former owner. Fortunately, a Good Samaritan found him and a dog rescue connected me with him. Everyday, we take many walks in my neighborhood. I enjoy his curiosity about everything he sees and smells. He travels in my car and works with me as my sidekick. I am learning from him how to heal and trust again when tragedy hits. He senses when I am down and stays by my side.

Secondly, I spend time each day writing in my journal. It’s an opportunity for me to put into words those feelings that I am experiencing. I can see in my writings what I feel. It enables me to reflect and expound on my emotions. Its cathartic and I find it beneficial.

The healing process I have discovered is a journey that requires time, patience and work. It will cause tears and it will make you sad. Yet it can be a tool to help as it helps me. As I look at pictures from our past family parties, gatherings or holidays, I can view them in one of two ways: sad reminders of what was and will never occur again; or with gratitude that I participated in events that enriched my life. I want to see them as inspiration as I move forward in my life. I have been blessed by a woman who taught me how to live life fully and how to die with dignity and grace.

Grief will always be a part of my life. Its not a death sentence – although it may feel that way at times. It becomes more painful if I see it that way because then it truly takes on the form of my enemy. If I view it as my grief counselor suggests, as part of my life but it does not strip me of all joy and happiness. Before my wife died, she told me to go forward; She said; “You have to go on.” She did not suggest it: she did not say give it a try, but give up if it doesn’t work; she gave me a command.

I am not an expert on grief. I learn each day from you and our veteran brothers ways to move forward. I am not a the point of saying grief and I are best friends. I am however willing to welcome grief as a part of, but not the whole of my life. As with any friendship, it takes time to develop and and hopefully, we can be friends rather than enemies. I wish each of you success in your path and hope that you discover peace and comfort in your journey.

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Tom Peyton’s bride Diane earned her Angel Wings on May 17, 2020.

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