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.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Putting Grief on the Page

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

                        Strange utterances, horrible pronouncements, accents 
                        of anger, words of suffering, voices shrill and faint, 
                        and beating hands.

The death of someone we dearly loved tosses us into a hellish pit of broken things. Grief is the journey of picking our way through the rubble and finding our way back up.

With the death, every negative emotion that exists floods over us – guilt, shame, anger, despair, depression, doubt, and others that we didn’t know we could feel. When death hits, we drop to the bottom of Dante’s pit. Or what we think is the bottom, because as the days, weeks, and months go on, we realize the extent of what we’ve lost and we drop further down.

Write about this. Put on paper everything that is going racing through your mind and tearing up your heart. Write about your fears. Write about the unsettledness of your world because this is where you will find solid ground.

There may be aspects of this death that are too hard to face, places we won’t let ourselves go because they scare us. One such place may be reliving the moment when our loved one died. Or maybe we think there is something we could have done the night before that might have kept them alive. So we look away and refuse to deal with it. And that’s okay. One day we may face it, just not today.

One circle of Dante’s hell I will not go involves 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 this blockade down brings me shame, sadness and regret. The line I will not cross is asking if she would be alive today if I had shared more.

Dante’s images of descending through the various levels of Hell are vivid, and I imagine pits of fire, demons, and the smell of brimstone. They fit the horror of grief, but I prefer his “dark woods” and wilderness images. I’ve hiked in the wilderness alone and know of the wild animals that live there. These places hold real fears for me because I could die there if I get lost, and it’s easy to visualize grief there. For you, the nature images might be sailing on the ocean or trekking across a barren desert.

We can also visualize grief as the psychological stages that Kubler-Ross set out. These were first understood as linear, progressing from one stage to the next. In reality, they are more like five overlapping circles, and when we’re dealing with one, something from another circle is often involved. Kubler-Ross later clarified that these were only common stages of the journey. We hit them in no particular order, some several times, while other steps we may never touch at all.

Or, we can borrow images from physics and view grief’s universe as a flat plane. When we walk off the edge of the side in front of us, we show up on the edge behind us, because the universe bends and its corners touch. I learned this from Homer Simpson on a show that depicts the illogical capriciousness of life and death. Sometimes humor says more about grief than facts.

Writing about our grief, even if we never let anyone else read what we write, helps us understand what we are going through. Write about your fears. Write about your wilderness. Write about everything, right up to the line that you’re not ready to cross. But write.

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  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.