I am pleased to feature a guest post today by photographer and podcaster, Andrew May with Allegory & Elm in Asheville, NC. Seldom do you have a photographer who is willing to enter into the depths and contradictions of what it means to be human as courageously as Andrew and his wife, Katie. You can follow their stunning work on Instagram and listen to The Allegory & Elm Podcast on the podcast platform of your choice. May you feel deeply the painful and courageous work, “The Shape of Grief”.
The Shape of Grief
by Andrew May
Grief is infinite. Grief cannot be confined to a simple set of stages or rules. Grief is everywhere and looks different for every person. Grief is shapeless, heartless, hopeful, changing, and healing, but never at the same time. Grief is an enigma, a paradox. Grief must be entered into; it demands our time and attention. Grief is not a passive experience. Grief is work.
Grief is like war. There are times where you are fighting like hell to survive, battling with yourself. There are times where you would say or do almost anything to stay alive. There are times of shame and of mourning. There may be times of hiding or denying the situation you are in. But there are also times of peace, hope, and rest for the spirit.
Grief is an ocean. It comes in waves; it tosses you around without any regard for what you want. The stages of grief are not a linear process. They are constantly interchanging and feel more like being taken under by a giant wave. You are struggling for air, and fighting against the current, but everything you do seems to drag you deeper or bring you further into despair.
The thing about grief is that it is uniquely personal in nature. Our brains have trouble decoding the mystery of the unknown, of death, loss, and injustice. It’s almost like an unsolvable puzzle, leaving our programming in stasis, which is why many dwell in depression for a long time by no choice of their own. We need to have grace on others and spread a bit more kindness into the world. We never know what someone is dealing with.
If you ignore your grief, it will take on the shape of denial. You can enter your grief and find that anger, depression, and bargaining are all major players in the walk of grief. Acceptance and healing only come when we have a willingness to enter into and assess our grief.
It is best to not compare our grief with others, but rather to share the grief we are experiencing with those we love and trust. Talking brings healing because it causes us to face what has happened. The shape of grief is defined by the individual, it is unique for every person, and the grief is whatever you make it. Grieve boldly.