Love Unfiltered: Learning to Lean into Grief

“I started the morning crying.”

This was how Emma Hemming-Willis began her Instagram video marking her husband Bruce Willis’ 68th birthday. The former action star has dementia – and while the video showed a smiling Bruce Willis singing along with his family, Emma didn’t want to pretend that every day was a good day.

Her confession, if you want to call it that, was raw and real. As it should be. It was as emotional as you’d expect it to be. It was vulnerable and strong, heart-rending and uplifting. Human grief on full display.

But it wasn’t sad, not really.

In “WandaVision” (yes, I’m about to quote a Marvel show), the character Vision consoles a heart-broken Wanda, saying, “What is grief, if not love persevering?” It’s a beautiful line, poignant in context and powerful in its message about dealing with loss.

I don’t disagree with the sentiment. But grief is more than just love persevering. Grief is love unfiltered. It’s love in its highest and greatest form.

Rather than shy away, Emma Willis leaned in. She embraced her grief, was perhaps even grateful for it, because it allowed her to fully express her love without reservation.

It would have been easier to avoid her feelings, to suppress or hide her grief. But that wouldn’t have been fair to her husband, her family, or herself.

I’ve experienced my fair share of loss (as I’m sure we all have.) And I’ve always avoided grief, rejected it, put it away and buried it. That was my way of coping with loss – trying to forget that I ever lost in the first place.

I was wrong. I should have leaned in. I denied myself, my family and my friends of all that unfiltered love.

I’m thinking about this, about Bruce Willis, because of someone else who has dementia. What matters now is what we, his family and friends, decide to do going forward.

Support him and care for him. Eat and drink and laugh and cry with him. Be there for him when he knows we’re there, and especially when he doesn’t. Treat him with respect and dignity, compassion and patience.

And when we have those inevitable bad days, when the grief takes over, we need to let it. We need to lean into it. Grief is good for the soul – because it’s not just love persevering, but unfiltered love everlasting.

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