In the Midst of Uncertainty and Grief, Here's How to Let Go

In the Midst of Uncertainty and Grief, Here's How to Let Go

By Shelby Forsythia

A lot of grieving people—myself included—have trouble with surrender after loss. In addition to reckoning with big, existential questions —Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do pets die? Where is god in grief? Why here? Why now? Why me?—we’re often plagued with practical questions as well. Should I leave my job? Should I sell the house? Should I hire a caregiver? Should I reconsider having children?

When we’re devastated by grief, questions that we would normally keep relegated to the distant corners of our minds join forces with questions we’ve never thought to ask ourselves before and pound our brains with query after query, exhausting us with their relentlessness and impossibility.

In a futile attempt to answer these questions, our minds perpetually gnaw on data, regurgitating and re-digesting every scrap of information we have in order to make sense of what’s happening. When we don’t have tangible facts to work with, our brains invent them, offering up possible storylines on the grand mental buffet of what-if. But in the chaos of life after loss and the mental messiness of reorienting to the world again, our brains’ ultimate response is recurrently, “I don’t know.”

Needless to say, it’s frustrating and overwhelming to be a grieving person with a brain. It’s scary too, because life is hard to live without certainty.

Our society is deeply attached to knowing-for-sure. Certainty is trustworthy and solid, a foundation to build upon, a bedrock that’s safe. Grief—the intimate recognition that we live in a world where anything can happen—sits in direct contrast to certainty. One client I worked with referred to her brain as “marinating in uncertainty.” That about sums it up.

And grievers try to be certain. We work desperately, to go back to the drawing board in our minds under the assumption that if we can just locate an answer to something, anything, we won’t feel as lost and scared as we do right now. If we can just find something to be certain of, maybe we could find a way out of the unending experience of loss. But we can’t. Sometimes, heartbreakingly, there’s just no way to escape uncertainty.

So how do we let go of our relentless quest to find answers after loss? We practice trust.

And don’t mistake me here. This is not trust in the world or trust in other people or even trust in ourselves. It’s an expectant, futuristic kind of trust that reassures us something else is on its way. This kind of expansion-oriented trust takes us out of the driver’s seat of our lives and reminds us that we do not have all of the information we’re ever going to have, this is not all of the life we are ever going to live, and this is not the only perspective we’re ever going to see.

Try these affirmations on for size:

  • “I trust that one day I will have more information than is accessible to me in this moment.”