Grief is Messy


BY: Judy Beckman, MA, LSW, CT

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

I was never insane, except when my heart was touched.” Those words from Edgar Allen Poe may resonate with you now more than ever. In the deep recesses of grief, you may find yourself asking so many questions:

Am I going crazy?

When am I going to get better?

How long is this going to last?

I cannot stand this pain-what do I need to do to get out of it?

These are questions that many grievers pose. They are understandable given the great pain and sadness that comes with the death of a loved one. The dilemma for those of us honored to companion the bereaved is there are no
answers to these questions that will make everything okay.

Many of us were taught grief follows a stage-like progression, and once we have completed one stage, we will move on to the next with the last stage being acceptance. And with acceptance, no more of the chaos of grief. Unfortunately, grief is not an orderly process.

Grief is messy. After a loss, many of us do feel like we’re going crazy. There are overwhelming, jumbled and chaotic feelings and thoughts. Symptoms of so-called “normal” grief include sadness, numbness, guilt, anger, relief, sleeplessness, forgetfulness, exhaustion, aches, pains and numerous others. Grief impacts all aspects of our being. It is a great tsunami that comes on unexpectedly and inconveniently. Waves of grief hit us often with no warning.

Grievers often say “I thought I was getting better but I am worse than ever.” The winds and waves are back slamming us with gale force. We feel like we’ll forever be stuck with the intensity of the blast and the aftermath. However, as we as we begin to accept that grief is part of the process, we can prepare ourselves just like one can prepare for a hurricane. We can learn to go with the waves while building a new foundation of understanding and support. Seeking answers and order make us feel some measure of control in a world that has been turned upside down. And while it is true our world will never be the same, just as the landscape after a hurricane is forever changed, we can learn to rebuild our lives and create a new kind of order.

Think of grief, not as an illness, but as something that goes along with great loss. We are not sick trying to get better. We will suffer a variety of symptoms and experience grief in our own unique way. We will have “moments” with very intense feelings and times when we can actually smile. We will have times when it all seems unreal and we feel nothing at all. We will be minding our own business and then be hit with waves of grief that are so intense we do feel like we are crazy. But, we are not. We are grievers.

And then we are faced with the ultimate statement and question: Okay, I get all of that, but what do I do about it? Here is the hard part; there are no quick fixes; no recipes to share that will make everything okay.

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