Wednesday, May 12, 2010

unpredictable patterns...

First...let me apologize for my last rant; not because I think it was wrong to do it, but rather, because that level of anxiety blind-sighted me away from all the beauty happening around me. However, that being said...I am really grateful to have a place to put all that frustration and pain, and am hopeful that when others read it they might feel less ashamed and alone when they suddenly buckle over as well.

In the journey of healing from loss, it seems clear to me that though there is the popularized notion of "five stages of grief", there is much much more to bereavement than can be fit into five neat little stages that get completed in nice neat little steps. "Oh yay...I've passed the bargaining stage, now it's on to anger!...I can't wait till I get to the level of acceptance and can get on with my life!"'s not that easy to categorize grief, and the linear attempts to do so only serve to alienate a person who finds themselves on something that looks MUCH more like a roller coaster than a stair case. What happens to the person who gets to a place where the pain doesn't wrench through their being every moment, and is given a sense that flowers do bloom again, and birds will sing...and that their melody even seems sweet once more, only to plummet back down into a spiral of agony over the smallest stressor they could encounter? It makes them feel like their earlier contact with joy was only a facade...a ruse. But, in truth...this is just NORMAL.

The grief of losing a baby isn't fit into a nice little upward facing staircase, complete with handrail and tread support to ensure you don't slip back down to an earlier step. It is a cyclical up and down that is sometimes surprisingly up...and then even more devastatingly down. There are no stages to greif. There ARE cycles of grief, and those cycles are unique to each griever. There ARE patterns to grief, but those patterns are as different in manifestation as the patterns on a crazy-quilt.'s a quilt...yes, it is made with fabric; but the shapes, colors and sizes of the fabric are all pieced together in a crazy pattern that only in the end reveals that it IS in fact...a quilt.

This is grief. This is loss. life.

I recently read a study that showed a significant amount of evidence that pointed toward the conclusion that grief after the loss of a child was not substantially helped by any type of therapy. In fact, the only thing that made a marked difference in grief of this kind...was time. YEARS worth of time. This study pointed out that the intense reactions and volatile emotionality was to be viewed as completely normal, and that really, the only place that therapy could be on true benefit to a grieving family was to offer that their pain was normal, that they were not going crazy, and that the only thing they could do to feel better was to keep on keeping on...time would ease the pain. LOTS of time. In other words...helping them to see that all these painful cycles are completely normal, and there's nothing anyone can do to make it easier. Not really.

This isn't to say that there are NOT things that we can do to help the process along! It's just that even the experts are saying that bereavement in and of itself isn't a reason to do therapy with the exception of helping a person to see that this pain is normal. That aside, there are things we can do. We can take walks. We can find the core of our breath. We can brush and cuddle a pet. We can take time to discover the depth of life that is so much more broad than simple fairy tales with happy endings. We can write...and write...and write. We can give space to the child we lost in our homes so that we give space for our grief in the manifestation of gardens, colors, pictures that symbolize who they were to us....we can create art. We can allow ourselves to cry as needed, and to laugh when the opportunity bubbles up. We can remember that if we could have a moment...even just a moment...with our little ones, that they would most likely hold us tight and ask us to look for and find our potential for inner strength, peace, and happiness--for them, and for ourselves. And mostly, we can reach out to others in pain; we all know that it's our sisters and brothers in loss that understand us more than anyone else can. In holding hands...we find a healing place.

So, in the unpredictable patterns of grief...we find a new normal. Changed forever by life lost, by tiny feet that would never walk, by unimaginable heartbreak...we will emerge to find ourselves able to offer comfort to others as bigger, warmer beings than we ever would have been without the earthquake of loss. I'm sure it would be agreed that each of us would have preferred to NOT know this brand of pain. No one WANTS to know what this is like; NO ONE wants to be part of this club. But...even so, because there seems to be a profound lack of wisdom in this world, a huge gap where wise women and men once lived, it occurs to me that those who have lost have the chance to offer something substantial to the world. If we take this opportunity to really find healing as we honestly journey on this roller coaster, we will one day look back and see that this IS the path....this broken-open devastation IS the way to a more complete wholeness.

Thanks for holding my hand....thank you for letting me hold yours.


  1. I so agree with all of this. I felt as I read this post that some of it I could have written myself, even. Grief just can't be "figured out". If it could, none of us would be here. If you could just read a book and learn to deal with it and handle it, we wouldn' tneed each other.
    I think it definitely helps to know that we are normal. That there are cycles of grief and that there isn't necessarily anything we can do about that!!

  2. "I recently read a study that showed a significant amount of evidence that pointed toward the conclusion that grief after the loss of a child was not substantially helped by any type of therapy. In fact, the only thing that made a marked difference in grief of this kind...was time. YEARS worth of time."

    Thank you for this! Great post!!

    Sarah xoxo


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