In my work, more often than not I come across a client who is experiencing oscillating cycles of sadness and anger within and is anxious and exhausted. After fighting for a few or more years to turn her life around to the fantasy of life she had envisioned she had wanted; she eventually starts giving up and then comes to a point where there is a feeling of being stuck in a life that she no longer wants to participate in but has to for limited choices that she might have in her world.

She is grieving the life she wanted and grief like the darkness of night threatens to hide so many moments of light in her life. Every day. That’s the biggest theme running in her life while she balances other areas of her life in shades of relative happiness that comes and goes. Yet what blares loud and clear is overwhelming grief that constantly plays in the back of her head like a silent song played on repeat mode.

What do I say to her? How do I help her process a present that she feels stuck in while she constantly looks back at the road she never travelled on. Help her come to terms with a life that perhaps did not have the career path of her choice or a loving relationship; unfulfilled dreams and hopes that she now grieves for. She is stuck in an impasse; a stillness of sorts that is not calm but is a whirlpool of anguish and pain that she does not know how to escape from.

It’s easier said than done that when life throws you a lemon you make lemonade. Be grateful for what you have. Accept that you were never meant to travel on the road that you keep looking back towards. Stay positive. All this hallmark advice is valid and looks great in theory but what do you do when you feel you are drowning day in and out? When you seem to be grieving with a smile on your face?

There are stages to this grief and the mourning seems to be chronic. It is also very personal and is not a linear process that is imagined to fade away with time in a progressive fashion. You cry, feel angry, withdraw from the world, or have a profound feeling of emptiness. There is initially a sense of denial about living a different life that threatens to suffocate you. There is crushing anger and resistance to the present. The stages of grief will also include a feeling of a bargain that is rooted in vulnerability and helplessness and perhaps an infinite hope that this grief will be compensated in one way or another. There is an extreme sense of sadness that suffocates you into oblivion and keeps you up at night with the thought of, ‘how did I end up here? ‘And then there is an acceptance that can appear to be the final stage of grief that will announce an escape from this unbearable place.

So how does one process this grief of living a current life that one does not feel connected to? How to accept enduring pain without letting it turn into suffering? How to imagine that it might change even when there is a deep sense of fear knowing that it won’t change?

To move from grief is to go through all these stages of grief. To not resist and experience it which can simply be a time out of sorts from life which can look like a day to oneself where you do nothing but try to process this all. The issue is that while you are grieving you also want to ensure that the life you are experiencing functions highly all the time. That’s not possible. Yes, you work towards making it functional but you can also raise your voice and choose to be given space to go through this deep and agonising personal process. To appreciate various parts of one’s current life that emerged in a survival instinct can only be appreciated after mourning the loss of so many what-ifs one experiences. You have to accept the loss and feel the pain of a life unlived to move away from suffering and perhaps come to a point where you once again start looking for windows you can breathe from.

To work towards a place where you start to accept that it is this way right now and also hope that that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be this way.