Mourning

Mourning

 

I’ve often described it like standing on the sea shore.  At first, the water is stormy and I’m regularly knocked down by an incoming wave that overwhelms me.  I find myself swallowing a lot of salt water.  Slowly (over years), the water calms down a little.  The waves aren’t as huge.  I’ve developed a strategy for bracing myself.  They start coming in less frequently and I either handle the occasional wave like a champ or I get rusty and am surprisingly flattened by the next one.  There’s no rhyme or reason to which way it goes.  Perhaps it is a reflection of the context of my life – what else is going on, the level of emotional reserve I have in the tank when the wave comes.  This is what grieving feels like to me and when I’ve shared this metaphor with others on the path, they nod knowingly.

That’s not the way our culture portrays it though.  Typically, grief is shown as this linear journey which has as it’s goal – “getting back on the horse” or some similar cliche.  You feel terrible at first.  You’re allowed to have a few good cries but then you’re supposed to start sucking it up and finding something to do with yourself so that you can “get on with your life”.  You can talk about your loss for a week or three but after that – folks squirm, look uncomfortable and try to redirect the conversation to more positive topics in an effort to rescue you from your pain.  This leaves many feeling as though something is terribly wrong with them.  They go into protection mode for their loved ones…not wanting anyone to be worried – effectively painting themselves into a corner of truncated grief.

My grieving path began with the loss of my adoptive mother.  Eighteen years later, I lost my adult daughter.  A little over a week ago, I lost my cousin who was more like a big sister to me.  There have been other losses in between but those are the big kahunas.  I have found one of the most important aspects of healthy grieving is the space and time to tell stories.  I am incredibly blessed with a family that loves to sit around and tell stories about our departed loved ones.  Tears (even years after the loss) are totally accepted.  I speak about my daughter in every aspect of my life.  One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received is when someone said they felt like they knew her based on how much I incorporate her into my conversation.  I have found that when I make it an open part of who I am, the people around me come along for the ride.  They are comforted that the subject is not taboo – they don’t have to tiptoe around it.  While our culture defaults to silence, I find that most individuals are terribly relieved when transparency is modeled.

Obviously, this topic is fresh on my mind this week and as I ponder my own path, I’m more aware of the grieving of others…The difficulty we face in this culture of doing it well.  My passion for walking this path with others and my recognition of the work as sacred is renewed.  Grieving isn’t just about the death of a loved one.  It can be the death of a relationship, of a dream, of a life stage.  Such passages are significant losses that must be acknowledged and processed if we are to glean all that it has to teach us and to move forward in good health.  I encourage you to embrace this process and enlist a wilderness guide to walk with you!

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One thought on “Mourning”

  1. Natalka McIntosh says:

    Love this! Thank you for sharing

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