Raw Reflections from the Journey

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Surfing and Sobbing: Sudden Shifts in the Grieving Process

You've either lost a parent, or you probably will. But the loss might not have been death, but some other sudden and significant loss or change in life. Whatever or whomever you've lost, you're probably familiar with grief and its varied expressions and emotions.

My dad died on Nov. 28; one week ago tomorrow evening. And it's been hard; harder than I expected. Others who've lost parents warned of this, but I excepted myself. "Dad and I have had the conversations we needed to have; differences have been resolved and appreciations expressed. "It won't be a big deal when he graduates to his eternal adventure", I reasoned. But it has been a big deal. I've had many more deep feelings and much more disruption to life than i expected.

I've encouraged clients throughout my career to expect 'waves' of grief, and to lean into them when they arrive. "Let yourself go with your thoughts and feelings. Don't suppress the feelings, or distract yourself." It's not always pleasant, but the alternative is to stuff and avoid feelings, medicate them with some type of distraction or mood altering experience or substance, etc. In other words, unhealthy alternatives even if they do temporarily relieve distress.

Friends and clients have said that my comparison of ocean waves to waves of grief has been helpful. Imagine sitting in the surf with your back to the ocean. Is this a game you've played? I do every time I get the chance to be at the beach. Waves come in one after the other. In between there are peaceful lapses, but then another comes. Some are gentle, but some are strong. Once in awhile big ones surprise you and even come up and over you. Grief is like this. Waves of emotion come in one after another. Some are gentle and some are strong. The healthy thing to to is to let yourself go with the waves of grief when they come. Think the thoughts and feel the feelings. I know, it hurts. Burning eyes, lump in the throat. But there's one way through grief, and its through it.

The pain will eventually subside. Time does heal. The waves may come in pretty strong from time to time, triggered by different thoughts, sites and sounds. But if you allow yourself to go through the process not only will you will be cooperating with God's plan for the process; to fully absorb and integrate the magnitude of your loss into your life, and thereby be prepared to live on.

With love, from one mourner to another

(I began this on Dec. 5, but didn't have the heart to finish it until today, Dec.11)

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