Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

If you would like to be notified whenever I post something new, please enter your email here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Putting Grief on the Page

             (photo of the massive roots of a sequoia tree that fell over)

The death of someone we dearly loved tosses us into a hellish pit of broken things, and grief is the journey through that deep place and back up. Here I’m visualizing Dante’s portrayal.

With the death, every negative emotion there is floods over us – guilt, shame, anger, despair, depression, doubt, and so on.

How deeply we descend depends on how honestly we want to face reality. When death hits, we drop to the bottom of the pit. Or what we think is the bottom, because as the days, weeks, and months go on, we realize the extent of all we’ve lost and we drop further down.
Sometimes there are aspects of the death that are too hard to face, and we don’t let ourselves go in those rooms. This may be something like reliving the moments of watching our loved one die. Or we think of something that we could have done, if we had known they were in danger, which might have kept them alive. This thought twists a sharp knife because there is absolutely nothing we can do about this now, and we have to live with it for the rest of our lives. So we look away and try not to deal with it. One day we will, but not today.

One circle of Dante’s hell that I descended to concerns sharing my emotions. It’s something that Ev worked hard with me on because my slowness in sharing threatened to pull our marriage apart.

That it took the death of the one I loved most in the world to break down this blockade brings me shame, sadness and regret. The line I will not cross is asking myself if she would be alive today if I had been able to share more.

I have found a community with others who grieve, and their openness and honesty are drawing my emotions out. Everything I share with them is heard and accepted. No judgment. Gates do not close when hard things are spoken here. They open. Others share similar experiences and I know that I’m not a freak. There is affirmation and encouragement to probe deeper into our experiences.

Getting Visual

Dante’s images of descending through the levels of Hell are vivid and work when dealing with grief. I also like the images of hiking through a wilderness of mountains and forests, or trekking across a desert. You can also visualize grief as the steps or stages that Kubler-Ross set out. These were first understood as linear, progressing from one step to the next. Later Kubler-Ross clarified that these were only common steps of the journey. We hit them in no particular order, some several times, while other steps we may never touch at all.

You can also visualize grief as peeling away the layers of an onion to get to the center, or imagining that the stages of Kubler-Ross are five overlapping circles. When you’re dealing with one circle, something from another circle will often be involved.

Or, if you like physics, imagine the universe as a flat plane. When you walk off the edge of the side in front of you, you show up on the edge behind you, because the universe bends and its corners touch. Just like grief. I learned this from Homer Simpson on a show that depicts the illogical capriciousness of life and death.

Related Posts


  1. Oh no..there is a place deeper? Hell?

    1. Maybe the place where we are stuck alone with ourselves, unable to forgive for not doing what we did not know to do.