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, November 15, 2017

Third Path For Grief

Book: It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand, Megan Devine

Our culture hides from grief. We no longer know how to take care of those who are grieving, and we expect people to get over grief quickly and get back to work. Megan Devine wants people to listen to their emotions, and she wants grief acknowledged as a normal part of life.

The first year of grief is an area that has remained unexplored in books, and this is when people need help the most. It’s also the most wibbly-wobbly time because there are no set steps to follow. Everything depends upon where the griever is feeling the most loss.

Companionship, Not Correction

Megan, who is also the creator of Refuge in Grief, has gathered everything she’s learned about helping the grieving into It’s OK. Included are her own struggles with grief, as well as words from the RIG community.

Even though she’s trained in counseling psychology, when her partner died in a drowning accident, Megan found that she had been taught little about the hard reality of grief. She set off on a mission — to tell the truth about grief and get our culture talking about it in intelligent ways. Most psychologists today still view grief as a problem if it goes on longer than a month, and not as a journey that is taken.

Megan is saying what our great-grandparents and ancient cultures knew well, that the trauma of grief doesn’t lessen until we deal with it. Rather than ignore grief, thinking it will fade away in time, or be so overwhelmed by grief that we feel forever broken, Megan says there is a third path –learning to live with grief. This is important because grief never goes completely away. We will always miss the people we’ve loved who’ve died.

Grief is not an illness that needs treatment. It needs support.

Besides her book, an excellent place to find help with your grief, especially in the first year, is at the Refuge in Grief website. There are resources there, and Megan runs an online, 30-day writing course where you can explore your grief in an organized way. If you want, you can share what you’ve written with the group. Just reading about the struggles of others helps you realize that you’re not alone in what you’re going through. We’re all pretty much feeling the same way.

I took the 30-day course, and its prompts opened up doors into areas that I hadn’t gone. I shared my writing with the group, and felt fellowship with other grievers develop. It is intense, because every morning a new prompt is waiting, asking you to go deeper into grief. The prompts helped me look at grief in new and unexpected ways. Those who go through the course become alumni and then have access to the ongoing community that continues to support each other.

In the book, sixteen chapters address such matters as the reality of loss, the emotional illiteracy of our culture, the need to take care of yourself when grieving, and how creating art (like drawing, painting, music) can help us express what words cannot. There is also a section of ideas for what friends and family can say and do to help those who are grieving.

It’s OK That You’re Not OK is a compendium of information and insights to help you navigate through grief.

If you haven’t lost someone close, then you really don’t understand the traumatic impact of grief. You can’t imagine yourself into the grief zone. Yet there is still the power of compassion, and you can greatly help someone who is grieving simply by being present and listening to them share what is going on. You can also help by offering to do something specific — “Would you like me to bring over chocolate chip cookies? Would you like me to pick up groceries at the store, or mow your lawn?”

Bottom line – If we love someone, we will grieve them when they die. The only alternative is to not love anyone at all, and that’s a losing proposition.