Since my dad’s death this past July, I’ve been thinking a lot about grief and how it’s perceived and handled in our society. One thing I’ve noticed is that grief sure makes a lot of people uncomfortable.
Often we read or hear it said that grief can feel like a wave washing over you. It’s a fairly decent analogy. When swimming (or even wading) in the ocean, sometimes a wave seems to appear out of nowhere, catching you off guard and you start to flounder at bit or in the wading scenario, lose your balance. It can take a lot of effort not to fall, be pulled under or in some cases, not to sink. We’ve all heard that phrase, sink or swim, right? The trick is not to panic.
Just like it’s probably better to not fight real waves by frantically kicking and flailing about, but rather to calmly ride them out; it’s probably also better not to fight the emotional waves that will undoubtedly come following the death of your loved one. It’s probably better to literally go with the flow of emotions, rather than fighting them or worse, stuffing them down. If you don’t, they’ll more than likely resurface again at some point anyway, potentially causing even more emotional turmoil and requiring even more effort to regain at least some sense of balance and calm.
Grief does sort of feel like riding the waves while trying to keep your head up and out of the “water”.
I’ve been riding the waves a lot since my dad’s death. Sometimes the waves are expected and sometimes they are not.
For example, a few weeks ago, I was strolling through the aisles at my local Wal-Mart mindlessly picking out stuff to toss in my shopping cart when suddenly, a wave appeared out of nowhere...
The wave was Circus Peanuts.
And no, I don’t mean the kind of peanuts in a shell you buy in a bag to crack open and enjoy while at a circus.
I mean this kind...
Circus Peanuts were one of my dad’s favorite candies (not sure they qualify as candy, but I’ll just go with that here). In fact, when he recently moved into his assisted living facility, I ran all over the place trying to find these orange, IMO gross, peanut-shaped, squishy treats. I discovered they are hard to find. Understandably so, I might add, as they are not on most people’s favorites lists. I tried one once, but only once...
But wouldn’t you know it? Wal-Mart sells them.
So there I was standing in the candy aisle (and no, I’m not going to apologize for being in the candy aisle) when suddenly, the wave hit.
While standing there staring at those bags of Circus Peanuts, I froze. Of course, the tears came next and then people started giving me weird looks. Who could blame them, right?
I proceeded to take out my smartphone so I could take a photo of one of my dad’s favorites because how could I not? I wanted and still want, to capture and hang onto everything that reminds me of him, even Circus Peanuts.
I’m sure people passing by thought, what a weird woman taking pictures of a weird kind of candy.
At that moment, being weird felt right. I had to ride the wave.
And so I did.
I try to keep reminding myself, it’s okay to ride the waves, to feel the pain.
It’s okay to feel the grief, my grief. It’s okay to let others see it too. And if this makes them uncomfortable, so what?
It’s okay, sometimes even necessary, to go with the flow.
And I when I do, usually I feel better…
Until the next wave hits.
How do you ride out waves of grief?
Is it hard for you to grieve openly in front of others?
Why do you think grief makes so many people uncomfortable?