Steady in the Storm, Chapter Seventeen: Unearthing Grief
“Loss of life is inevitable and we have learned to understand one another when processing death, though we still have a lot to learn, as grief is just as inevitable in scenarios having nothing to do with physical death.”
2020 has been a bruiser. We can all agree this is the year we wish would just end already. There are so many natural disasters occurring it’s hard to comprehend what you’re seeing. In a day and age where CGI is so ingrained in our entertainment, it’s difficult to acknowledge that what we are seeing is real. For instance, actual tornados of fire are occurring throughout the west coast wildfires right now. Images of them appear to be just another shocking scene from the next Avengers movie, but this is actually happening, recorded on a cellphone, from a firetruck.
Our brains and emotions are overrun with how to process all of this. I mention in my book, Steady in the Storm, how in the chaos of the storm we are in fight or flight mode. The ability to feel grief or even acknowledge what we are feeling as grief gets put on a back burner, that is so far back, we may not know it’s there for months or even a year. This overwhelming overload of tragic and traumatic situations is just too much for us to handle. We see what’s happening, are in shock and then shake our wrists and heads saying, “I can’t deal with this right now.” and then carry about trying to go through life in the most normal way we know how. The ‘can’t deal with it now’ will eventually come up.
Because there is so much going on this year our grief stores are overflowing. I was speaking with a friend the other day about how we, and seemingly, everyone we know had emotional breakdowns over the weekend, just crying – in the moment we created a very real reason to be upset, but looking back on it we were confused as to why that caused such a collapse of ourselves. Grief needs to be felt, even if it comes out as rage, depression, tears, or a numbing.
What happened this year that you need to grieve? What events, celebrations, parties, trips and social events were canceled? What plans had to be put on hold? Did you lose your job, your savings, your house, a loved one? It sounds superficial, but are you even just missing being able to go about your usual means of escape; going to the movies, meeting friends, the fall fairs?
Lots has changed. For the most part people don’t like change. Adapting to something new is not our best strong suit. What about your routine has changed? As a journaling exercise, write out what used to be a standard day in hour format, what did you do, what did it look like? Then, write out your current day now. Pick a day you know was interrupted with new routines. What does it look like now? Acknowledge how different it is and consider what is lost, what has changed, what you might need to grieve.
Grieving doesn’t have to look like tears, sadness or sympathy cards and flowers. Sometimes, grieving is just and acknowledgment of what is lost, sitting with it, acknowledging it’s changed and being ok with the changes. Sometimes the process is a bit deeper, involving recalling memories and that’s not what it looks like now, maybe will never look like that again. Make space for the sadness associated with this, make space for tears, make space for a walk or a drive or a conversation if it’s needed.
Letting the steam out a little bit at a time is going to prevent the hard and fast fall of depression, anxiety and anger. I think we grieve a lot more than we think we do, and making space for it can be a healthy part of life.