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The Journey of Grief: Peeling an Onion Part 2: When the Whirling Stops

By Yourtribute @yourtribute

The Journey of Grief: Peeling an Onion Part 2: When the Whirling StopsThe first part of grief is a whirling cloud of emotions, pain, fears, and utter disbelief that leaves us feeling like we are in the eye of a hurricane waiting for the winds we know are coming and hoping we can survive. Unfortunately, the time does come when the whirling stops and reality lands to take over our entire being.

The questions no longer appear and vanish, they hang there daring us to look for answers when there are none.

Reality becomes just that–real. This is no dream. My loved one will not miraculously appear. My world will never again be the same.

The fears haunt our days and terrify our nights. “Can I survive this pain?” How will I live?” “Where will I go?” “Who will take care of me?” “Will I ever get better?” “Do people really get through this kind of thing and live again?”

The pain comes with surprising force. It is amazing how much physical pain there is in grieving. Sometimes the pain can overwhelm us. I remember a late night call from a woman who told me she was in the floor and could not get up. Her husband and son had died in a car accident and she said the pain overwhelmed her and she crumpled to the floor. Somehow she crawled to the phone and somehow got my number. The pain surprised her into panic and fear that she was not going to ever be able to “get up” again.

Even the most confident of people begin to doubt their own sanity and their ability to walk through the darkness and once again find light. Since grief is as unique as a finger print, there are no road maps or set guides, and everyone is left wondering if they are reacting properly, doing it right, or moving through as fast as they should. I remember one woman who told a group I was leading that she used lipstick to write on her mirror. “I will not should on me today.” She recognized that the doubts and fears were leading her to live in a constant struggle with how she “should” feel, act, talk, sleep, eat and drink. She needed some relief and discovered that relief could only come from herself.

All of this describes a small part of the second layer of the onion. I call it the reality layer. Reality comes slowly in order to protect us, but, in time, it needs to come. This is the most painful part of the journey. This is the time when we feel the most vulnerable and helpless. This is the time when we wake up in the night and our chest hurts until we don’t think we can breath. We cry until we think there are no more tears in our bodies, and then cry some more. We call friends and have no idea why we called or what to say and mostly just blubber into the phone like some child.

Often we feel torn between desperately needing to talk, and running from people for fear we will have to talk. Each conversation must first overcome some kind of resistance and fear before it can move beyond hello.

It might help to remember that this is one layer of an onion. This is not how you will feel from now on. The feelings and fears can be worked through and there can be a gradual movement toward the next step in the process. Grief is transition, where you are today is not where you will be tomorrow or forever.

There are some things that might prove helpful in the journey. If you read these blogs you will hear me say it over and over again, but the need is to feel what you feel. Fighting feelings demands too much energy that we do not have to spare. This is what the woman meant when she wrote “I will not should on myself today.” She was not going to fight her feelings. She was not going to try to control how she felt nor force herself to feel some certain way. Right now your feelings are not controllable and any effort we make to try to do so will only make the feelings more intense.

It also might help to let the feelings out; to rant and rave if necessary, to tell the world how unfair and cruel it all is, to find safe people who will understand or at least accept the rants that need to be set free. When I asked the woman who was in the floor and could not get up what she felt like doing, she said she felt like screaming. I told her to let it out, and at first she was reluctant to do so with someone she had never met. I told her it would be all right and that she never had to see me or be embarrassed. She screamed for what seemed like at least twenty minutes. I am sure it was more like two or three, but it seemed like forever. She suddenly stopped and said, “Thank you, I feel much better,” and hung up the phone before I could say another word.

At first the feelings whirl above and around us in a dizzying spin, but like a hurricane, they are building up their power. Then they crash in on our lives and we feel like we will never live again, but the storm does move through and the onion layer does get peeled. Next time we will look at the next layer of our onion.


Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community


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