Waves of Grief

Grief comes in waves. Some waves come with the tide and are as predictable as the rising of the sun and moon. Others sneak up and catch us unaware. Just as we think, “I can handle this…I’m doing so much better,” a Tidal Wave tries to drown us in our own tears.

One lady had a husband who loved to shop. He bought almost all the family groceries, at least after retirement, and relieved her of that duty. After he passed away, her cupboards got really bare. She knew that particular “wave” of grief would overwhelm her in the frozen foods isle. A friend suggested that the store was open and the isles emptiest at 4 every morning…and many days she was awake then anyway. That particular “wave” was more manageable at 4 a.m.

One of the waves of grief that many people experience is the wave of guilt. One young man felt guilty that he didn’t say what he felt when Mom was wheeled down the hall for transplant surgery. A lady felt guilty that she didn’t stop her son’s marriage to the “wrong one” years before his fatal illness. Another felt guilty that she didn’t notice and stop her granddaughter’s suicidal thoughts. Of course, none of those feelings of guilt actually caused a person’s life to end, but the guilt is still felt there.

There can be few waves of guilt more overwhelming than the guilt of feeling happy or having fun when my loved one is gone. And that last statement won’t make any sense at all to some of you, and you might even resent that remark, but others will “resemble” that remark.

Anger is another wave. You might be angry at your loved one for leaving you like this, angry at God for allowing it, angry at the world because it seems to be leaving you behind. I hope that you can find a “healthy outlet” for your anger and that it won’t be turned inward to the point that it creates depression. Some depression is normal in grief, and my hope is that the anger won’t cause a depression that consumes your life.

Some of our friends and loved ones who have not yet experienced the Tidal Waves of grief will expect us to “man-up” and “get over it.” My personal observation, as well as many articles, indicates that the waves of grief tend to calm sooner if we don’t fight it.

Grief is not something we “get over,” we have to go through it. Many times those waves are worse at the most unlikely times…like when we are supposed to be singing Joy to the World. Don’t try to “should” yourself out of grief, and certainly don’t let others “should” or “shouldn’t” you because they are uncomfortable with your grief.

Rip tides are other waves that are known to those who swim in the ocean. These are currents that tend to take us out past the point of no return. When even the strongest swimmer tries to swim hard enough to overcome them, they tire to the point of exhaustion. They say that the key to surviving a rip tide is to swim parallel to the shore…not even try to swim toward dry land. Just relax and “go with it” instead of trying to fight it.

As the waves come and go, do your best to keep your head above water as you ride the waves and rip tides of grief. The waves of grief won’t last forever, though it might seem that way, and it seems that they subside sooner if we ride it out, “just go with it” instead of fighting it.