Grief and I Know Each Other Well

Today I had a conversation with my aunt that sparked a bit of reflection.

Often when we talk, she will share with me her difficulties letting go of material items of her mom’s, who passed 4 years ago. She struggles so much, not just with letting the items go – but with this idea that by now she should be over it and able to get rid of things.

At one point today she said she hoped she didn’t sound weird.

I shared with her the items of my grandmother that I still own (my grandma died 15 years ago) and how a couple of her shirts are my favorite nightshirts. I told her how the lingering of my grandma’s scent on her clothes used to bring me comfort in a world that was so foreign without her. I told my aunt to never feel bad for missing her mom, ever.


It was during that conversation that I realized just how familiar I am with grief and just how great the task of healing truly is.

I grieve so much.

  • The death of my mother, and the relationship she and I should have had. She was taken from this world and from me days after I was born.
  • My childhood: the innocence, trust, safety, excitement, and growth that was supposed to be but wasn’t.
  • All the betrayals by my father, his mother, and family who kept secrets and protected monsters.
  • My grandfather, the abuse, the trial, and his suicide.
  • 20 years of dissociation and isolation from my family, and the memories and experiences missed.
  • The realities of my life, and the weight that I must carry from now on with complete awareness.

The 5 stages of grief doesn’t come close to covering what it means as a trauma survivor to process through and face the damage that was done, or the pain that I feel.

I agreed with a friend the other day that the damage felt by those of us abused long-term as children can feel permanent, like scars on our very souls.

“The wounds that can never be healed must be mourned alone.”
-James Frey, A Million Little Pieces

I grieve for the life I should have had, for the terrified child within me, for the lifetime of affects, and for the moments of my present that will be stolen by the past as I learn to live my life with PTSD.


Thankfully, I am finding that there is truth to the idea that healing comes from the place of pain.

Grief is painful, heavy, and can feel very consuming.

Healing means: connection, awareness, and reflection. Wonderful things come from this place.

Connection to myself physically and emotionally. It means learning to be okay with having wants, needs, and and feelings. It means learning to express them. It means learning how to be a more whole and fulfilled version of myself

New awareness of self and learning how my responses are connected to negative cognitions hardwired into my thoughts and perceptions so I can determine new and better approaches. It means becoming aware of who and what is important to me and learning to focus on and appreciate that when the past comes knocking.

It also means becoming aware that my past will always be a part of who I am, healing won’t make it go away – it will only make it more manageable to carry.

Finally reflection, being able to look at who I am, where I come from, and realize when I am responding with trauma driven reaction so that I can continue to learn how to regain control of who I am rather than allowing my past to subconsciously take over the driver’s seat.

I sometimes wonder if I will ever find an end to my grief or if it will be with me always. I often wonder if I’ll ever gain complete control of my response and reactions when they are pinged by trauma relatives emotions.

Yes, greif and I know each other well. Perhaps the silver lining is the understanding I have for those who grieve too.

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