I had a very different plan for my blog post and video this week. But, in light of recent events in my life, I need to address something bigger.

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We are Caught in a Grief Cycle

In my first blog article, I talked about resilience. How we’re far tougher than we think.

This COVID-19 pandemic has rocked all of us. We have all lost so much. And, certainly, those losses are not the same for everyone. It does look different for everyone. But what we do have in common: our grief.

Even if we don’t recognize it, we are caught in that grief cycle. Moving through—or at times even ricocheting between—various feeling states: shock, denial, numbness, apathy, depression, anxiety, bargaining, acceptance, hope, bitterness, and anger.

But We are Tougher Than We Think

We are far more resilient than we realize. As martial artists getting punched in the ring. As parents navigating family challenges. As employees and business owners dealing with shifting priorities. We do have—and have the potential for—an incredible amount of toughness to help us get through this now.

But Sometimes We Need Something Different

I really do believe this. And I set a very high value on this toughness. But at the same time, I can see the other side of it, and the need for something completely different.

Sometimes we may need to fall apart.

Some Losses are Overwhelming

When I was 10 years old, my dad died. It was an incredibly dark time in my life. My mom was devastated. I was devastated. And what I needed to do, I thought, was to be strong for my mom. Was to be tough.

So I held it in. I held it all in. I thought this meant that I was a strong person, and that I was coping. And to a certain extent I was. Helping her was a focus, and a distraction from my grief. But, in prioritizing toughness, I ultimately never let it out. I didn’t cry. I didn’t talk about it. I pushed it way down deep.

But then… 20+ years later my first brother-in-law passed away. And it all hit me. I couldn’t stop it. It all came out. All of that pent-up grief.

That Grief Can Accumulate

As happens with anyone who’s gone through a loss, your grief tends to accumulate. With every loss, you’re grieving for all of them, a collective experience in a sense, with each loss building on the next. I always end up crying for that first loss. Always.

And after all those years, that accumulation was significant.

We Might Feel Like a Puzzle with One Piece Missing

Imagine you’re working on a puzzle. You’re just about finished. You get to the end and… there’s one piece missing.

That was me. All those years I felt like that, like I was a puzzle with one big piece missing. The important piece. And I didn’t know how to find it.  I didn’t know where it went.

And all that time, I valued holding it all together, and keeping that unfinished puzzle intact. Keeping those pieces together… while trying to find that missing one. Hoping that I could finally complete the puzzle and be whole.

Falling Apart Might Help Us Find the Missing Piece

And then my brother-in-law died, and it was like a cat jumping on the table. Puzzle pieces flying everywhere—ME flying everywhere. I was all over the room. I was under the couch. I was in the vent. I was everywhere. I was a mess. I had completely fallen apart. I didn’t want to, but that’s what happened. I couldn’t stop it.

I don’t think I left the house for a month. My family was really worried about me. I was really worried about me. I didn’t know what was happening. I’d never just fallen apart like that. Ever.

At the end of that month, I woke up one day, and I felt better. I felt okay. A funny thing happened: I was able to start putting myself back together. So I started picking up all those pieces. And, when I was done, I discovered that I had found the missing one. I had found that missing piece.

By letting myself fall apart, I was able to find all of me again.

Letting It Out Can Make Us Whole

Through this pandemic we’re all holding on so tightly to what we lost, to who we were, to what we want. We’re all handling it very differently, and have different ways of coping, some effective, some not so much.

I think there can be real value in letting ourselves fall apart. This worked for me. Facing it. Letting it all go. Crying it all out.

Some days, it seemed like the tears would never stop coming. But they did.

I faced all of that grief. I faced all of that sadness. I faced the whole thing. I faced the loss in its entirety. And I let myself feel it. I didn’t push it away. I didn’t hide from it. I didn’t wallow in it either. I just felt it.

And I healed from it because of that. I made myself whole again.

Vulnerability and Strength = Yin and Yang

This is the flip side of resilience, but an important part of it. It’s the yin and yang. We are strong, and we are vulnerable. We are both. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t have night without day. You can’t have dark without light. You need both. We ARE both.

At certain times we might feel strong, just strong. And at other times we might feel horribly vulnerable. But we are both, and acknowledging this is how we’re going to get through this.

So that we can eventually find that missing piece, and put ourselves back together again.

We all have different ways of coping with grief, and what works for some may not work for others. What works for you? Would you be willing to share your experiences or offer suggestions for your fellow readers?