Friday, May 3, 2013

Does Grief Need Healing?

The ever-faithful Chelsea wrote me again today:
Dear John Shuck, 
When your emotions sneak up on you, don't push them away. 

Let them in and feel every ounce of them because you will experience healing at the deepest level possible. It is when you don't allow such feelings, that grief will become buried and cause more problems later. 

Emotions can be a reminder just how much your loved one means to you. 

Remember is okay to feel happy, relief, and joy too. Release any guilt you have about feeling happiness; your loved one would want that for you. 

There is likely no greater sadness and no greater heartache than to lose someone you love. Continue to expect yourself to go through a wave of emotions with the waves getting smaller over time. 

Each wave gets you closer to healing. 

Good advice.  The last line is worth comment:
Each wave gets you closer to healing.
I am not happy with the word "healing" as it applies to my grief.  Healing implies illness, sickness, or wounded-ness.  Something is wrong with the griever and there is a goal to get better or to heal.    I don't feel sick or ill.  I feel like I am on a quest.  Or perhaps I am as I wrote in my last sermon on a sailboat in the fog.

The image on the sidebar is a shattered stained-glass window.   At some point I will make something from it, maybe.   But I don't feel ill.   I don't think I need healing. 

I am searching for a metaphor for my experience.   I found this post on this long-abandoned blog, Grieving and Loss:
No one can really tell you what it is like to grieve. To truly understand the process, you must experience it yourself. However, metaphors can give us a glimpse of the grieving experience. They also give us some insights into the grief journey -- a universal journey that you and others may have gone through and will continue to go through.Here are some interesting grief metaphors:

"Grief is like a labyrinth. A labyrinth is not a maze as there are no dead ends and no wrong turnings. There is only one way -- forward." (Artress, no date)

"Grief is a graceful, periodic, deliberate walk backwards while keeping a sure foot in living forward." (Moules, Simonson, Prins, Angus, and Bell, 2004)

Grief is like riding an emotional roller-coaster. You will surely go through the ups and downs when you are on the ride.

Grief is like climbing a mountain. At first, the slope is steep. The journey is hard. Then you reach a plain field where you can stop and rest before you continue the climb. At last you reach the mountain top! Just when you think the hiking is over, you see another peak. There is one more to conquer. So you choose to walk down to the mountain valley before you climb up to the next mountain. Though the valley is deep, it is necessary. And with past climbing experience and training, you are more equipped for this now.
 To use a metaphor from the Bible, grief is a
walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
I have been acquainted with that psalm through hearing and reading.  Now I know it through experience. The "shadow of death" is the shadow that death consigns to the grieving.   Death shadows the grieving.   The shadow knows.  Dark shadows.   Jung's shadow encounter.  

The Bible is great for these images.  The Hebrew children had to wander for forty years in the desert.  Why?  Perhaps they were grieving the loss of Egypt.  Slavery is not so bad compared to this incessant wandering.  Jesus was tested in the desert for 40 days.  Elijah hid in a cave.

For the most part, grief is waiting.  Waiting and sitting.  Grief is absurdly waiting for Godot: writing blogs, walking dogs, wandering in circles, doing whatever including nothing, anything " hold the terrible silence at bay."

1 comment:

  1. I think "acceptance" rather than "healing." Or maybe acceptance is aka healing. In any case. Holding you and yours in the light.

    The Five Stages of Grief - Poem by Linda Pastan

    The night I lost you
    someone pointed me towards
    the Five Stages of Grief
    Go that way, they said,
    it's easy, like learning to climb
    stairs after the amputation.
    And so I climbed.
    Denial was first.
    I sat down at breakfast
    carefully setting the table
    for two. I passed you the toast---
    you sat there. I passed
    you the paper---you hid
    behind it.
    Anger seemed so familiar.
    I burned the toast, snatched
    the paper and read the headlines myself.
    But they mentioned your departure,
    and so I moved on to
    Bargaining. What could I exchange
    for you? The silence
    after storms? My typing fingers?
    Before I could decide, Depression
    came puffing up, a poor relation
    its suitcase tied together
    with string. In the suitcase
    were bandages for the eyes
    and bottles sleep. I slid
    all the way down the stairs
    feeling nothing.
    And all the time Hope
    flashed on and off
    in detective neon.
    Hope was a signpost pointing
    straight in the air.
    Hope was my uncle's middle name,
    he died of it.
    After a year I am still climbing, though my feet slip
    on your stone face.
    The treeline
    has long since disappeared;
    green is a color
    I have forgotten.
    But now I see what I am climbing
    towards: Acceptance
    written in capital letters,
    a special headline:
    its name is in lights.
    I struggle on,
    waving and shouting.
    Below, my whole life spreads its surf,
    all the landscapes I've ever known
    or dreamed of. Below
    a fish jumps: the pulse
    in your neck.
    Acceptance. I finally
    reach it.
    But something is wrong.
    Grief is a circular staircase.
    I have lost you.