Grief is a Journey Not a Destination
By Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield
When someone close to us dies many companies will give you a few days off with pay to recover. Much of the rest of our society seems to believe that grief is something very temporary. If only it were that simple or easy. Grief is not about forgetting or “ getting over it. “ It is about learning new ways to embrace what the one you lost means to you. Your mind, emotions, and soul need time to adjust to the new reality of your relationship with your loved one who has passed away. Tom Attig, Author of The Heart of Grief: Death and the Search for Lasting Love describes it this way, “Grieving is a journey that teaches us how to love in a new way now that our loved one is no longer with us. Consciously remembering those who have died is the key that opens the heart, that allows us to love them in new ways.” As Attig points out grief is best thought of as a journey.
Neither is grief a short journey. It is not a matter of hours or days. Your journey through grief will take months, years or even a lifetime. In fact grief may never go away because those important to us, remain such a part of us, that even death can pluck them out of us. This is an important point. Our relationship with our lost loved one does not end with death. The reasons we loved them, the reasons we miss them to the point of physical pain, will always remain part of us. The relationship changes very dramatically when their physical presence with us ends with their death. However the relationship itself does not end but enters a new phase. Ashley Davis Bush describes this aspect of the grief process in Transcending Loss, “Grieving is not a short-term process; it’s not even a long-term process; it’s a lifelong process. ‘Having a future’ now means that although your life will flow again, it will flow differently as a result of the loss. Your grief will become incorporated into your life history, become a part of your identity. And you will continue now, and forever, to redefine your relationship with your deceased loved one. Death doesn’t end the relationship, it simply forges a new type of relationship – one based not on physical presence but on memory, spirit, and love.”
Grief hurts worse when it is new, when the journey has just begun. However that does not mean that the pain will remain almost unbearable forever. The journey will get easier. However it is not like traveling downhill. There will be curves, and ups and downs. Sometimes just as the journey gets easier it will get harder. But just as it will get harder it will once again get easier. The Hospice Foundation of America uses the following analogy to explain how our journey through grief plays out, “Grief is a roller coaster, not a series of stages….Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning, the lows may be deeper and longer. The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss.” The important thing is to allow yourself the time to let your grief journey take its own path and pace. Rushing through grief is almost always a mistake !
If we are going to have people in our lives that we care about we are going to grieve when their physical life with us is over. To never care about anybody or be cared about would give us a very hollow, shallow life. So the fact is there will be times in our lives when we grieve. We must learn to understand what is happening to us when we begin this journey over someone we love. The journey through grief is often hard. We sometimes fear that if the hurt fades, the memories will go with them. However grief is about finding a new home in our hearts and minds for those emotions and memories, not moving away from them. Grief is a long difficult journey, but you can and will find your way.