The most misunderstood word, even though we all experience it in our life, we don’t even realize that is what is happening to us. The word inspires imagery of a person alone crying endlessly, even needlessly. It brings to mind this idea that it’s either something we must get over within the allotted time frame or something we may never get over. But what does it mean to get over it? I have begun to realize that people think that learning to cope despite their feelings and showing up for work and life means they have succeeded in getting over their loss. The tricky thing is that without even realizing it, the grief is manifesting in so many areas of our life, motivating us into actions based on pain. If we finally get a handle on not showing our feelings, when we think we have mastered a brave face and finally when we are numb enough to not feel the pain most of the day, we are lead to believe that we have grieved.
There is a shame in the word and the action, we find ourselves not wanting people to assume we are weak and can’t cope with our feelings and emotions. So, we act to the best of our abilities as though we have everything under control. Of course, in the real world, we can’t go around falling apart to everyone from the barista to the stranger in the bank. Imagine a world where we were equipped with the knowledge on how to process our feelings of loss, honor them, complete the relationships and get recovery. Imagine a world where we could think back on our lives and not regret the past, or not feel the pang of loss because our loved ones aren’t there to share in lifes most precious moments.
I lost my mom when I was just 18 years old, I remember thinking that nobody would ever love me as much as she did. I fell into a dark sadness about the fact that I would never be loved. I tossed this idea around my brain for years. The loss of my mom made me feel so incredibly vulnerable as a young woman in the world. I didn’t feel safe, I felt like I had nobody to go to when the going got tough. When the going got good I didn’t have anyone to rejoice with either. The thing about death my mom used to say to me, is that it’s the people that are left behind that struggle. Man, how right she was, and I became angry at her for leaving me behind. I couldn’t believe that she knew she was going to die, and she didn’t even leave something in the written form for me as I got older. Every time something major happened in my life I began to hate her for not being there with me, I began to resent her health choices that I felt killed her quicker. But no amount of resentments was going to bring her back to me. There was nothing that could be done for me I was destined to suffer forever it felt like.
There were so many things that happened in my childhood that were painful, and I could never get the answers for why now that she was gone. As life moved forward and the people we knew changed and grew I felt terribly sad that she wouldn’t be there to see what happened to all these friends. When my as a model took off I thought I was going to feel whole again. After all my mother had made some notes in her to-do list book that included submitting me to Sports Illustrated swimsuit. I finally booked the job and was the first South African ever to appear in the magazine, I was in the issue for 6 consecutive years and was in their top 50 swimsuit models of all time list that they magazine released in celebration of their 50th anniversary. Surely all of this success was supposed to make me feel great, surely all of this attention was supposed to make me feel loved, surely being so-called supermodel was supposed to validate my place in the world? Why then when I stood there in the green room of the David Letterman show listen to all the Sport Illustrated swimsuit models chatter about their conversations with their moms before arriving, did I feel so broken inside? I spoke to nobody, and my family didn’t seem to care, we are all broken and fragmented across the world. When my career faltered I wished I could call her for some get up and go advice but there was just silence. I longed for our creative pow wows and I tried everything I could to tap into her powerful ideas that made me feel like I could achieve anything. And when it finally came to an end, I felt defeated and I had nobody to give me that inspirational pep talk I so needed.
I needed to find the meaning in it all, the loss of my mom felt like the cherry on a cake made of loss, trauma, bullying, emotional abuse, abandonment, neglect and all the other PTSD inducing hardships of life. My friends would come at me with the most unhelpful slogans and myths about grief. Stay busy, time with heal, replace the loss, just to name a few. I had spent a decade reading every self-help book under the sun. About a decade after my mothers' death I felt guilty for still being sad about it. But the truth was it felt like I lost her again every single day. For every single day, she wasn’t there to be part of my life I was reminded over and over again that nobody will ever love me or care for me the way she did. Finally, an astute friend said to me, did it ever occur to you that you are still grieving the loss of your mom?
Shocked I didn’t even know how that could be possible it had been a decade surely after all this time I wasn’t supposed to feel sad. But there is was again yet another myth about grief. Time will not heal, actions heal. My friend pointed me in the direction of the Grief Recovery Handbook written by John James and Russell Friedman. I devoured it. Reading about this gave me hope, I felt for the first time that I wasn’t wrong to be sad about the loss of my mom, because “grieving is the normal natural reaction to loss.” There are so many ways to recover from loss, but what I have learned is that you have to do something, there has to be actions taken to complete the pain that we feel or perhaps we will be destined to suffer forever.
I plunged headfirst into recovery from my grief, I became so intrigued by the idea of being emotionally free that I became a certified Grief Recovery Specialist. I found meaning in my own losses by being able to help those that I love to recover from their own pain. Now I find joy in seeing the light come back on in the eyes of the people I work with. It’s a scary thing to be willing to open yourself up to recovery. People think that if they open up that can of worms they will never be able to close it and they will be destined to suffer forever, that’s not true, nothing lasts forever. In my experience when I wasn’t doing the work the grief was always there anyway. it was always ready and waiting to come to the surface at the most unusual times. Once in a business meeting about a tv show at ABC someone asked me about the relationship with my father and I began to sob, I was so embarrassed. I realized years later after doing the work with the Grief Recovery Method that is was possible to have grief over many different types of losses and that there was grief I had with my living father. Now I find myself excited at the idea of grief, I’m passionate about something so difficult to cope with for so many. I am thrilled when I start working with a new person, not because I am happy they are suffering, but because I know that I cant change the loss from having happened but I can help guide the griever to a place of peace. We shouldn’t have to spend our lives suffering over a loss when we know that there are tools and actions that can be taken that can help us recover, we just have to learn what they are.
Genevieve has been an internationally acclaimed supermodel for 15 years. She is now a certified Grief Recovery Specialist, with a focus on one-on-one workshops teaching the Grief Recovery Method as developed by John James and Russell Friedman.
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