When people go through a loss or an extremely difficult situation, the problem can be compounded by one another’s differences in coping and grieving style. That in and of itself can cause feelings of loneliness and isolation, which further exacerbates the loss.
What attracted me to my last interviewee, Cheryl Strayed, was her way of dealing with her grief and her need to find her way back to her life. She went on a solo hike for three months. That takes guts and courage, tough skin (literally and figuratively) and a very adventuresome spirit. But she needed to do something big and bold in order to rediscover and recreate herself as a motherless daughter. By feeling the earth she eventually got grounded.
Most of us don’t take such a huge leap into the unknown in order to come upon the known. Many of us struggle and work things out within our own everyday lives.
I for one grieved intensely for a year after receiving my daughter’s diagnosis and finding out she had developmental disabilities. I railed inside with every toxic emotion available. I had no clue how I was going to come back to a grounding point where I could feel good again.
It’s a very scary place to be, not knowing if you’re going to feel good again, if things will become O.K. again, albeit in a new way.
Last night I attended an author’s talk where a woman asked a most poignant question to the author and moderator during the Q&A. She asked how and what can help her feel happy again in life after the death of her son. A hush came over the audience and after a long silence and deep sigh, the author answered by acknowledging her loss in a most compassionate way. There’s a saying in Hebrew which translates as, ‘standing on one leg’. In other words, something can’t be explained or answered while standing on one leg. The woman’s question couldn’t really be answered here.
It brought me back to my year in therapy when I used to ask my therapist, how will I feel better. And his answer to me was, ‘there’s no recipe’. I thought then it was such a lame response. I wanted something concrete, something I could grasp that would make it or me better. But as I came to know, as much as I didn’t like the concept, it really was, ‘a process’ – a process of Going through it in order to Come through it.
And then things start to shift. The loss naturally remains but the concoction of emotions get shaken up, mixed and poured back and forth until some new variation of emotions is put together. Gradually we come to a place where some of those good feelings can surface and rise to the top.
My ex-husband and I couldn’t have been more apart in how we each grieved. My feelings were raw and exposed and I needed to talk. He escaped in his hospital work of very long hours and did not want to talk. We were miles apart and each alone in our own grief. His answer to me was always, “what’s to talk; how many different ways can I say I’m sad.” But in truth he was also very angry, and angry at God. His sense of helplessness and anger eventually turned inward to non-healthy ways of coping – to numbing pain-killers.
Sometimes it feels like we’re hanging on for dear life, both within ourselves and with one another. But hanging on can hopefully get us through with the right supportive strong rope. Finding it can be a challenge but it’s out there. We may find it on a solo journey or in our own backyard. Grief and its comeback has many faces. The trick is to find what brings us back to the land of the living, and the living well.
How have you been able to ground yourself through a loss or painful situation? Have you experienced grief in a way that pulled you apart from your loved ones? What brought you back?