I wrote a blog by the same title approximately one year ago. Many of my feelings at that time were driven by the mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub, killing 49 people and wounding 58 others. I must admit that at that time I wrote somewhat academically about grief and coping therewith. I referenced Dr. John Schneider’s book Finding my way: Healing and transformation through loss and grief. While I stand by Dr. Schneider’s work and the suggestions I made in my blog, I now feel the need to address some of the human, feeling elements that were missed at that time. I also feel the need to address the fact that my current feelings are driven by a more personal experience with loss and grief. This was a painful reminder that coping with loss is a lifelong task.
Psychologist Dr. John Schneider writes that the grieving process requires us to discover what is lost, what is left, and what is possible (1994). I wrote that “…taking one more moment to reflect on what is lost may expose something previously gone unnoticed.” I reflect on this statement with chagrin. The idea of taking ‘one more moment’ to reflect on what is lost was naïve to say the least. As I sit here today, weeks after facing a great loss, I am still grappling with defining and articulating what has been lost. If we think about the loss of a parent, for example, this could be a lifelong process. Each great milestone without them (e.g. the birth of a baby) could serve as a reminder of the great loss of their physical presence, the emotional support they would have provided, etc. These are sometimes unexpected as we grapple with the more present, acute experience of loss. I frequently hear statements of disbelief that the grief is still bubbling up, surprised that there could be any more loss with which one must cope. Again, depending on the loss, it may be helpful to think about grief like a vast ocean on which you will sometimes experience peace and calm; at other times, you will have to ride turbulent waves of sadness until they pass.
Schneider writes about two more parts in the grieving process, but at this moment, I feel the need to be still. I encourage you to trust your instincts when it comes to knowing what you need to do – or not do – in order to heal. Be gentle with yourself and those around you. Between everyday losses, mass shootings, and devastating natural disasters, there is plenty of grief to go around right now.
Written by Alexis Anttila, MA, LAMFT
Schneider, J. (1994). Finding my way: Healing and transformation through loss and grief. Kalamazoo, MI: Seasons Press.
Photo credit: pexels.com