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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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Taking Grief Out For a Spin

Verbalizing Trauma

I confess, I’m task-oriented. I get a thrill when I accomplish a lot of work, thinking that the more tasks I finish, the more successful and happy I will be. Working validates my existence.

Or I used to feel this way. Now, not so much. I’ve come to see that tasks are empty boxes if they don’t directly help others. My wife’s death made this clear. There is never an end to the number of tasks that need to be done, but people don’t live forever.

When Evelyn was alive, I worked constantly to pay the bills, aiming to relax when we had several months of money saved up. I shouldn't have taken on that second job, and should have spent more time with her because now she is gone and I can’t get her back. Yet paying the bills was a reality that had to be faced. Working that second job kept us financially afloat. Besides, we were in our forties and thought we should have plenty of time in the future to relax.

Did you notice all the “shoulds”? They pop up a lot in grief, all the should-have and coulds-have-beens. We need to let them go, and it isn’t easy.

We can’t undo regrets. There are no do-overs with death.

Yet stepping back and identifying regrets can help us recognize our behaviors and habits that distract us from doing what we intend.

After Ev’s death, I deliberately tried to change my introverted habits by lingering in conversations with people at work, instead of rushing off and finding solace in another task, and I felt relationships deepen.

Every day off from work, I took grief out for a spin. I went over to some friend’s house to talk about it. It amazed me that there were people who were willing to listen, because I would talk about despair, anger and a host of other negative emotions that I thought would drive them away. But they kept inviting me back. I think that what I thought were really strong emotions, were just emotions to them. I also think they loved Evelyn and wanted to help me in her place.

They patiently listened to me go up and down the hallways of emotions and peer into each room trying to identify which emotion I was feeling. As I shared where I was in grief, they helped me clarify what was muddled in my mind.

It's ironic that my path of recovery involved talking, because I hadn’t been a great conversationalist in the past. I would say what needed to be said and go back to work. This didn’t help with grief because I couldn’t work through emotions by stuffing them in a drawer. I also discovered that I liked talking to people, because once we moved beneath the surface chit-chat, they were quite interesting.

It’s said that life is a river that is always moving and changing. So is grief. It carries us from death back to life.

Talking with others is grief’s river.


  1. I feel like its a sign that I read this post tonight because I was just in my kitchen a little while ago thinking that I don't spend enough time with my loved ones. I do too much blogging and housework and not enough quality relationship building time with any of my kids or my husband. I got to thinking about how when I am dying, I am not going to wish I had more time to blog. I am going to wish I had more time with my family . And then I read this post and its just like the extra little kick I need to start getting my priorities straightened out.

    1. There are so many interesting things we can do each day, and many of them are good and worthwhile. That's the problem for me. I'm curious about so much. But I realize that I can't do everything I want, and to just to start in each day on one of them ultimately isn't that affirming. As you say, it helps to get our priorities straightened out.