The Demi Lovato podcast episode of Pretty Big Deal with Ashley Graham aired recently.
In it, Demi says she used to have someone in her life tell her to “power through it” in every hardship that she faced. “That phrase kept repeating in my head all the time, in instances where I really shouldn’t have powered through it,” she remarked. She later realized that there are some things that you are just not supposed to power through, that she suppressed years’ worth of pain.
Suppressing pain is an easy way to manage the agony in the moment, but the pain doesn’t truly go away until it’s addressed. We have to confront the issue at hand.
What is it?
How long does it take to grieve?
When do we grieve and when do we just “power through it”?
Does grief last forever and we just learn to live with it?
Or does it ever really go away?
We live in a world where people demand answers to everything. Where we can look up topics and resolutions to most questions on the internet. But grief has no answer. There is no right amount of time someone should or can grieve. There is no website that can tell you what you’re allowed to grieve about. There are no perfect solutions or guidelines.
Here is what we do know: grief is a result of loss. The grieving process is complicated and it affects us all differently.
Most commonly, death is what we grieve about. Losing a loved one can be one of the most challenging experiences we endure throughout our lifetimes.
What else do we grieve over?
Divorce. Losing a job. A falling out with a friend. An illness. A decision made.
There is nothing too small to grieve over.
My younger brother has been in and out of trouble for years now—from a juvenile detention center when he was younger to more recently, jail. This past year, he was in prison and the grief I felt is indescribable. My younger brother, someone I am supposed to look after, living in a place where every aspect of his life is controlled. Someone I am supposed to help care for is living in a world where I can’t reach or help him at all.
I was in denial: there’s no reason our family should be going through this. I was angry: how did this happen? I was sad: I miss him so much. But in the end, I had to accept it.
While he was in prison, there was a part of me that wanted him to stay in prison. I knew that he was safer in than he would be out. He couldn’t fall back into old patterns if he was in prison. So when it was time for him to be released, part of me grieved and I felt so guilty for it. I should be happy. I should be excited. My brother will be free. I will get to call him and see him and spend time with him whenever I want now.
But what I’ve come to learn is that we can grieve even the “good stuff.”
Yes, it was a good thing my brother was getting out of prison—it was a great thing even! But my grief over his release was valid and I wasn’t going to just power through it; I wasn’t going to suppress my pain. I could grieve and still be happy at the same time. I could honor my emotions and still embrace his return home. I could acknowledge my feelings and hold space without giving in to the guilt or urge to suppress.
Because the thing is, I’ve always been the type of person who “solves” a problem by staying busy. My go-to mindset is to distract myself from the hard times. Place a bandaid on the wound so I can avoid dealing with the issue at hand. I don’t want to cry, I don’t want to be sad, I don’t want to grieve. My mind says, “Go, go, go! Keep going. Keep doing fun things. Stay busy!” But the business eventually comes to a halt. When I’m lying in bed, my mind is racing, it hits me all at once. The patched problems break open and flood my mind with the overwhelming grief I’ve tried so desperately to ignore.
I realize now that I have to stop powering through it. My grief deserves and demands time—even when it absolutely sucks. My grief journey is not the same as anybody else’s, and that’s okay.
In the Pretty Big Deal episode, Demi goes on to say, “I just wish people could be more gentle with themselves.”
I have to agree.