I think an essential part of the grieving process is what I've heard called "liminal space," or a time between things.
If you've had significant loss in your life, you know that there is a time period when you are beyond the intense period of crying, but the missing still aches inside you. It's as if your head says to your body, "Okay, this person is gone. He/she is not coming back. You have honored them, grieved for them, allowed them the freedom to 'go,'...now it's time for you to move on."
So, your head and logic know that it is time to figure out what is next and how to take that next step, and yet part of you doesn't want to. You are in a state of liminal space.
I can tell you right now, I think it is an absolutely okay thing to be in that place. It's a time that can lead to hope. I can also tell you, based on my own loss of my brother to suicide, that it is a place you can and will move on from when it is time.
What does that mean? Well, I think that pieces of our heart or soul need time to process how the loss of the one we loved has changed our lives and how we feel without them here. We need time to just 'be.'
Two examples:1.A death involving cancer. You may have taken care of someone with cancer and you have known that death was coming for a period of time. You have had the time to say your goodbyes. The process has been draining and the grief has been drawn out. There may have been periods of hope and dreams of recovery until in the end, the cancer won.
Liminal space may mean a time of relief that the pain, the not knowing, the battle is over, even though it was lost. It may mean feeling a sense of freedom from all of the anguish and caretaking. Then one day you wake up and floods of tears or anger or some strong emotion takes over you and you know you need to take a look at what it is that will help you. And where you go next. A death that happened quickly (a car accident, heart attack, etc.). When someone dies suddenly, shock takes over and in many ways puts a shield around the grieving person's heart. It's protection from the intense wave of loss that came so suddenly. It's like being blindsided and not knowing how to get any balance back without that person in the world anymore. It's wanting to tell the person things you forgot to say and/or reliving things you didn't say.
In the beginning, liminal space may mean times of denial, or just moving on as a shadow of your former self, just trying to survive. One day, you break down or shut down and you realize, you need help or you need to do something more to heal yourself. In any case, or at any stage of grief, allowing yourself to be where you are and trying hard not to judge it can be instrumental in allowing yourself to think more with your own heart.
I believe the heart or soul can really lead us to what is next in our journey of loss WHEN we allow it to speak to us. I believe it can lead us to a place of hope.
And hope can be a really nice place to sit for a while. We don't have to think we are happy or even feel good, but if we can get to hope, we can begin to see that our heart can open more to loving ourselves, and even allowing others to love us deeper while we grieve. Hope can be the key to knowing that we can make it through the next day. And maybe the next. And that maybe the next day, we can smile or laugh or just enjoy something like a flower or the sunshine. And maybe we can find the one we loved and lost in those things, in that hope. Maybe we can allow them to be there with us and to speak to us from where they are and to comfort us in whatever way that manifests. May some form of hope show itself today no matter how much you are hurting.
Thank you for this very sensitive article. You know how it feels to grieve in one’s own personal way. You don’t judge or force things. You understand.
Allison, your message resonates for me deeply as a sister who also has lost her brother to suicide. While I feel that the pain of coping with suicide is very unique, the two examples you provide describes the universality of the grieving experience. An experience which when allowed, can be transcended through a guiding spirit of hope.
During the liminal time as you poignantly describe it, I’d like to further expand upon your important points of non-judgement and allowing yourself to think more with your heart, as a time when hope can be reached when we gently lean into the feelings. In other words, allow them to bubble up however mildly or intensely, as it feels comfortable. The healing process to a place of hope is a circuitous feeling experience as opposed to a linear, thinking one.
Two powerful words during the liminal time: ‘allow’ and ‘hope’.