People who come for grief therapy often ask, “How long does this sadness last?” “Does it ever get better?” “Will I ever wake up some morning and feel something different than what I’m feeling now?” Though the questions are usually the same, the answers are not!
I have learned from listening to others and from working through my own grief experiences, that length of grief time, changes in feelings, and turning the grief corners not only vary from person to person, but also vary for a single individual, depending upon the grief situation.
After the death of my mother, as an eleven-year-old, I was stuck in childhood grief memories and unmet needs. I didn’t even know there was a grief corner, let alone understanding the ability to “turn it” and move towards healing. I lived with the open wound of her sudden death until I was thirty-something and entered graduate school as a candidate for a counseling degree. It was in that setting that I would begin to understand the impact of childhood grief and what I still needed to do for myself if I were to ever be helpful to others.
I would learn more about the entanglements of grief after the death of two of our sons. I would experience first-hand how feelings of guilt and blame can hold one in emotional chains and thus delay one’s ability to move forward. During this long grief period, it would be the long conversations with God, and the grace and spiritual solace He was to grant, that would eventually lead me to the corner again.
And years later, when my dear friend died of stomach cancer within weeks of extreme and invasive surgery, I would learn how a traumatizing experience can throw an even deeper emotional wrench into grief. After ministering to her physical needs from the surgery and witnessing her inability to keep anything in her new stomach, I came away from the experience with the memories of her violated body and physical limitations imprinted in my mind and heart.
None of the visuals or sounds would go away. It would take three months to uncover the truth of how grief, when laced with a traumatic experience, can continue to torture the soul. It would take another three months of dedicated practice of meditation and journaling in order to calm the nervous system enough to enable me to find my way back and eventually locate the corner again.
As I write, I am aware that it is one year ago today that my husband…my true love… received his leukemia diagnosis, which led to his death two months later. I know I am not in the same place now that I was five months ago. I miss him and I still cry, though I don’t cry as often as I did. I have learned to fix the front-door knob when it comes off. I’m great at taking care of the lawn and I’ve excelled in knowing when to call for help when I need it!
I go to the mountains where we scattered his ashes and I find solace in talking to him. I am comforted by his answers to my questions. I smile and tears fill my eyes as I remember the hikes and picnics and ski trips we had with our children and grandchildren amidst this beauty. It could be easy to sit and cry for what “is no more” but if I’m not careful I could use up all of the todays wishing for yesterdays.
Hearing myself say that renews the hope and belief that there will always be a grief corner waiting to be turned. I think maybe I just did it again!
Sharon Greenlee, MS, LPC, RPC is a licensed counselor, author and consultant. For many years she has conducted seminars and workshops in all areas of personal growth, creativity, writing, stress reduction, grief, loss, change and life transitions.
In the area of grief and loss she has provided staff development and grief after-care for hospital staff, schools, funeral directors, hospice staff and caregivers and various business groups. She conducts grief support groups and provides personal counsel for grieving adults and children. For many years her work as a hospice volunteer included support for bereaved children and their terminally ill mothers. Sharon’s book,” When Someone Dies”, Peachtree Publishing has been a source of comfort for many grieving children and adults. She is also the author of numerous articles.
Recently moving from Wyoming to Fort Collins, CO, Sharon has a private counseling practice and teaches workshops, including grief and loss, for the Fort Collins Poudre Valley Hospital Aspen Club.Tags: grief, hope