Navigating the Grief Journey

If you could, would you rather know the future? I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know all that the future holds for me, but I do want to know enough to prepare for those things that I can. As you grieve, you can do some preparation for the holidays.


A part of my training and background is that of a missionary pilot. The first two rules of navigation we were taught were: 1) Know where you are. 2) Know where you want to arrive. Because the wind blows, variables have to be considered, and deviations or adjustments made almost continually, but you still need to continually know 1) where you are, and 2) where you want to arrive. In navigating this thing we call grief, it is hard to know where you are because that continues to change. Where you are going to arrive will change as well. Many speak of a new normal when referring to grief emphasizing that what once was normal will never be there again…you have to find a new normal. As you travel the journey of grief, where you are and where you want to arrive will continually change.

I never cease to be amazed at the number of people, (some grieving themselves, others writing about grief and grieving) who speak of steps, or stages. I prefer the description a lady gave of grief. “Grief is like peeling an onion. It comes off a layer at a time and you cry a lot.” Waves are another way of looking at grief. Any way you look at it, grief is not easily wrapped into a nice, neat package. Grief is a journey that will take you further than you wanted to go, cost you more than you wanted to pay, and keep you longer than you wanted to stay.

A part of the journey will include preparing those around you. I’ve both hinted at and stated this in these paragraphs. Friends and family may not understand why you are sad, and might be hesitant to talk about your loved one for fear that it will make you feel worse. Many people that I have spoken with say that it makes them feel better for others to occasionally bring up the subject of their lost loved one. You might want to scream, “Hey look at me! I am emotionally wounded!” You might be afraid to do that, most of us don’t want to stick out in the crowd. At other times you might agree to go to the party only if no one brings up the subject of your lost loved one.

I am asking you to help us understand what your emotional needs are, and prepare us to help you. Since grief is as individual as a fingerprint, you are the only expert on your grief. Please “school” us as much as you need.

When a holiday comes the whole world wants to lay aside all else and have joy and celebrations with gifts and lights and you may want to shout, “Are you forgetting the loss of my lifetime?” It all seems to trivialize the person and the loss. There are many ways to say it, but the message you may hear from the world is, “It is time for you to get past your grief and get back to the way things were.” And you know that is not going to happen, not now, not ever. Things will never again be “as they were.” 

For the next few weeks we will try to discover some helps in navigating grief for the Holidays.