the grief cycle

“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.”

the grief cycleAlright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not.

I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes.

My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function.

You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

~ by GSnow


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32 comments

  1. As someone who has been seeing the dead since childhood I am can promise you, death isn’t final. In future generations death will be a part of life and certainly not finial. They keep their humour and personalities too. None of it changes. All your lost loved ones are still there, and they love you more. You’ve lost a lot of people in this life as have I but you have more looking after you in the next. Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on COURAGE TIMES THREE and commented:
    As for me I became a widow at the tender age of 26, with my husband being killed in an auto accident and left with two young daughters to raise. Now, I am sixty and consider myself ‘OLD’ as well when it comes to dealing with death in this world.
    This is such a simple method to use as an example as is written here and I agree totally that you really need to hand on to that being of wreckage in the water of that boat and float until you can begin to swim once again. When it’s the first close death it really stings. But sometimes it’s better to lose a friend than a parent or child or sibling. Prayers going out for you and know that you will find peace in it one day. Everyone who reads this blog article will have a heavy heart for your pain, those who know the pain well, especially.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on And Then Life Happens and commented:
    I’m glad I got to read this, and I hope others who are going through hardships do, too. It’s a very realistic advice. It’s neither harsh nor sugar-coated, but a very truthful and realistic point of view of what it feels like to go through a hardship, but also what it’ll feel as you survive and weather the storm.

    Like

  4. Lost a parent in end of Jan/early February and this gave me some peace as to how it will go. Also @spiritchild1972 ‘s comment on this thread. Thank-you for sharing. Really, thank-you.

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  6. This is beautiful. I lost my mother the day after Christmas and I’ve had a hard time with the grief. This is exactly how I feel. I found comfort in this, and I hope the best for you.

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  7. I stumbled across this when my Uncle passed in December of 2015. Just yesterday my workplace lost someone who was a big part of our work family. I’ve kept this and shared it as I find it to be the most appropriate description of what most of us are feeling. I keep it saved as a gentle reminder that my sporadic moments of grief are normal. I’m grateful that this post has come across my life. Thank you, truly.

    Like

  8. I lost all of my core family, mother, father, and three younger siblings as well as many friends. I am sixty-four. You did a beautifully poignant piece regarding grief. I understand the waves, and I too don’t want them to stop. I have also found peace and I am unsure if they hear me, but it comforts me to talk to them often. Thank you for this work of art. I know it will touch many.as it touched me.

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  9. I have recently lost a friend who was like a brother to me and a son to my dad. I have saved every picture that his wife has shared and i love to look at them every day and think about all of the memories we shared and all of the fun and crazy times we shared as well. When i went to his funeral i went in to see him for one final goodbye and all i could do is just stand there and look at him, i didn’t cry i couldn’t i just couldn’t believe what i was looking at i just couldn’t believe that i was at his funeral standing there looking at someone who’s voice i would never hear again or the sound of laughter coming from him. I wish i could just take a minute and have one more chat and good laugh with him. Just last week i finally cried because it finally hit me that he’s actually gone but i know he’s in a better place now.

    Liked by 1 person

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