A Beautiful Grief

Facing life after loss with peace.

A Letter to Lea

Handling the Early Days of Devastating Loss

Lea Michel & Cory Monteith
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Last night I was asked to offer some advice for what Cory Monteith's girlfriend, Lea Michele, needs to do to be able to move on and cope with his death as well as what she will be going through with his sudden passing.

My thought was to write her a letter with some thoughts that could be helpful as she works her way through the shock and then the grief of her devastating loss.

Dear Lea,

I am so deeply sorry that you are experiencing such a terrible loss in your life. I know you have many people who love and support you and that you are receiving prayers from around the world. I would like to add these few thoughts for when you have time to consider them.

My immediate response to anyone who has lost someone dear to them is to be patient with yourself and with grief itself. Mourning is an organic process that takes time and trust.

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I used to think it was a cruel reality that we often find ourselves faced with having to make plans for services and deal with the flood of incoming sympathies and demands on our attention when all we want to do is crawl in a hole and follow our loved one out of this world.

But, over the years, I have come to believe that the necessities of life are actually a kindness that allows us to gradually come to grips with the reality of a situation that feels so completely surreal. Sudden loss is especially hard for our poor brains to comprehend. So life's demand that we keep moving, taking care of the inevitable business of physical separation, can actually support the process of acknowledging our loss.

As the reality of loss sinks in, the symptoms of early grief can be terribly unsettling. The crushing fatigue but inability to sleep. The loss of appetite, the crying jags, the desperate need to talk and talk and talk about our loved one. These are all signs of a powerfully foreign but deeply authentic and natural response.

The most important piece of advice I would offer is that there are no "shoulds" in grief. Unfortunately, other people have very strong opinions about what you should or should not be doing or feeling. Most of them are well-intentioned and a good many of them will be completely wrong for you. Trust that you will find your own way if you give yourself the opportunity to acknowledge your own needs.

A great difficulty is that our society does not know how to grieve. It is more likely to encourage us to "get through it" or "get it over with." The grace is that our inner guidance knows the exact process of mourning for each of us. When you can follow that guidance, you will make it through.

The spirit of grief is very wise. It is also natural. Paradoxically the fastest way through is to go all the way in. As the days turn into weeks and months, do not try to block or hasten your grief. Rather, sit with it and learn from it. Allow yourself to follow it as deep as it will take you. Do not be afraid of the unknown into which it may send you. Keep moving—in body, mind and spirit. Allow yourself to cry and encourage your body to move through the emotions. Getting some exercise really does help.

Resist the temptation to medicate grief away. You are not ill. You are in mourning. Of course, seek the support of loved ones and qualified grief counseling professionals. But be wary of anybody who says you are broken or need to be fixed. You may have been broken open but you are not in need of repair—even if that is how you feel.

Your heart may feel as if it has been amputated. Right now, it may be little comfort to be told that that gaping hole will eventually grow back to wholeness. So, until you begin to notice the subtle knitting together of the pieces of your self, please trust that healing happens in no small part because of who we can become through the experience of loss.

It is possible for the worst thing that ever happened to you to become the most important. And it will do so if you can let go of expectations and relax into the compassionately mysterious work of grief.

Loss comes to everyone at some point. It is never a tribe we want to join. But, because others have been and are now where you are, you do not walk alone.That can be great comfort. And, yet, always being with others can also be a distraction. So I encourage you to find a balance between company and the very necessary alone times that are essential to discovering who you are now and who you will be as you emerge from this experience.

You may need to find new groups who will support your need to talk and share the story of your relationship with Cory. It's important to do so. I found it to be a deeply powerful way of integrating, not just my memories of the one I lost, but also the essence of that person. I think it's the internatlization process that is a great source of healing.

Finally, don't worry about trying to move on too soon. Especially with sudden loss, grief happens on many levels that continue to unfold, just as a bud opens gradually. Give yourself some time and the way forward will reveal itself if you concentrate on just being present with what is arising for you today.

My heart goes out to you and all who mourn. I have been where you are and survived. So will you—even if you don't feel like it right now.

I want you to know that the love you shared with Cory can also be the bridge to a new life even as the bond seems to have been irrevocably severed. Just be present with that feeling and it will move you along in the way that is perfect for you.

I am holding you in my heart for your comfort and perfect healing.

Cheryl Eckl

(C) 2013 Cheryl Eckl Communications, Inc.

Cheryl Eckl is the author of The LIGHT Process: Living on the Razor's Edge of Change.

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