What is the recipe for grief?
There is no recipe for grief.
Years after the deaths of my sisters, my complicated grief program required that I incorporate self-compassion into my practice of forgiveness. I learned to repeat this thought: I did the best I could at the time. I am amazing now. These words were crucial.
As a figure skater, I thought of this like learning a new element on the ice. I’d break down the element into segments, put the pieces back together, and practice the skill over and over hundreds of times until it was mastered.
Thirty Years of Dormant Grief
My sisters Margie and Jane had been dormant in my life for close to thirty years. My parents wouldn’t talk about them, so neither did I. I shut down, closed doors.
My forgiveness training would restore my sisters back into my life and would also restore myself as a functioning human being not “defined by grief.” Restoration exercises included looking at photos, telling stories about Margie and Jane, and rereading their precious cards and letters.
Trained athletes do this; so do grieving people. It never stops. Varying degrees of training. Varying degrees of grieving.
Thirty years was half my life. The unrelenting layers of questions, doubts, and what-ifs had spiraled through my head the entire time. When I looked back at the landscape of my life, I recognized that those thirty years could be thought of as “lost time.”
I tried to rationalize that I did the best I could at that time under the circumstances. And I reminded myself how grateful I was to be undertaking this hard grief work. But my heart would not allow me the freedom of forgiveness. My brain needed an alternative pathway to peace.
But healing has taken place—through forgiveness and in acknowledging regret. After my sisters died, I never spoke of it. Now when I meet someone new, I say, “I am the middle of three. Sadly, I lost both of my sisters.”
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