In an effort to bring more meaning and depth to this space, today we’re focusing on a topic that is very near and dear to our hearts: navigating grief and loss. As an innate part of the human experience, grief is something we all experience at one point or another, and even though we know that, it still hits us like a ton of bricks. Grieving is uncomfortable, stressful, painful and lonely – simply put, it’s the absolute worst thing in the world that we can feel. And yet, we prevail and continue to carry on.
Photo Credit: Kate Donovan Photography
So what sparked this post exactly? On Monday morning we woke up to an email from our founder, Katie, letting us know that her sweet 8 year old Cavalier, Hazel, was having terrible breathing issues and had been diagnosed with first stage heart failure. We were gutted.
We all chimed in with our condolences and to share our own experiences and learnings from loss. It immediately became apparent that this hardship, that felt so personal and isolating, was one we all shared. So we decided to open up our hearts and wounds to our Bryony & Birch community as a whole and share some of what we’ve learned from those we’ve lost and those we anticipate losing.
From great pain comes great growth
When it comes to learning how to appreciate our time and relationships, there is no greater teacher than grief. Of course we’d prefer to just have our loved ones back with us, but understanding that we don’t have control over that, we really have no choice but to receive the gift of growth and appreciation for what we do have. As cliche as it sounds, we can all agree that our grief has taught us to slow down and enjoy the moment: calling a parent to catch up, intently listening to our spouse’s story, watching our child play, flirting with a stranger, standing in the sunlight. These are the things that life is made of and seeing first hand that it can all be gone in an instant has given us a renewed sense of appreciation and excitement for them.
In this circle, we don’t stay silent
In America, we’re not well-versed in how to talk about death, grief and loss overall, so instead of saying “the wrong thing,” we so often say nothing. But in my own experience as a grieving person, when people say nothing, it actually makes me feel worse. Talking about my loss, who she was, how much she meant to me, how lucky I was to know her – all of those things keep her alive and close to me. They make me happier. So when it comes to the hardship of grief and loss, we don’t stay silent. We love a good grief group and we aren’t afraid to talk through the icky and uncomfortable details of loss – this is how we heal.
Prioritizing self-care has never been so important
Just 4 weeks after learning my mom died, I got shingles. 2 weeks later I had a panic attack. I had never had either of those conditions before, but my body was so stressed out over the pain and chaos of sudden loss and memorialization that it manifested in a virus and an episode of extreme anxiety. When I was finally able to take a step back from the early days of loss, I realized that my self-care game (which was previously pretty on point) would have to be taken up a notch. Hydration, limited alcohol, limited screen time, patience and grace – these were the things I needed to survive this. Prioritizing self-care while grieving is an imperative.
Find your support network
If you’re experiencing loss or anticipating the loss of a loved one, you’re not alone and it’s okay to get help. If you’re local, Market Street Baptist Church holds a weekly group at 6:30pm. If you’re looking for grief support online, we recommend seeking out a virtual therapist, grief group, or using one of the many grief support apps available for download.
In honor of Hazel
This post is dedicated to Katie’s sweet pup, Hazel, who is still with us, but is having a tough time. Please keep both her and Katie in your thoughts – they need the strength of their community to lift them up right now. <3