So, if grief is not gotten over, but instead, gotten used to, what are some ideas for grieving well?
I am glad you asked.
I don’t really have a format so much as thoughts to consider. As I mentioned, though there may be value to format thinking, it can also be dangerous.
Too often, when we grieve we feel…
Disconnected from reality…
Like in a dream or nightmare…
Like we might be, well,
The day I drove to officiate Jason’s funeral, I was in almost out-of-body mode. I was truly convinced that I would also not live out that day. I even left all my insurance and funeral information open on my laptop and sitting on my desk at work.
I was pretty sure that my wife was going to need it before nightfall.
As each car came toward me in the other lane, I would casually wonder if it would be the one to cross the center line suddenly.
I even wrote notes to my kids and wife…
Now, at some therapeutic level, I was pretty sure that it was all just a psychological response, but at the level of human intuition, I would have bet on my demise.
Obviously, it didn’t happen.
Grief and Grieving can feel crazy.
For these and other reasons, people in the midst are always trying to check in:
“How do you think I am doing?”
“Is this normal?”
“People are telling me I need to get over this faster, what do you think?”
Do you see the danger inherent in getting entangled in format thinking for grieving? Everyone is so different and then when we are experiencing something in which “normal” responses can range from despair to dissociation, who can say what is normal?
Really, and who cares?
Now, listen, I am not advocating being mired in something from our past. I am talking about grieving as defined above – moving on in the midst of grief. However, I think it looks enough different enough in each person to be worth letting it be individual.
So, instead of any other way of talking about it, I would rather include some of the topics worth talking about. When someone begins to work through their grief, these are some of the topics I engage with and look for. These are in no particular order – and with comments, I will happily add more:
Comparisons are of
little value… As you know if you have read many of my blogs, I firmly believe in chaos theory when dealing with people.
(in essence, chaos theory claims that it is impossible to make accurate predictions or even fine measurements when dealing with something
radically complex. The most famous example has to do with weather systems. They are so massively complex with so many impacting variables that they are nearly impossible to predict with any accuracy. The infamous question has to do with the effect that a butterfly flapping its wings in Peking has on the weather in a city in the US.)
There are few more complex systems than human personality and identity. Our genetics and our experiences are so vastly different… prediction and measurement, though interesting to study, are impossible.
So comparison of the grieving process is not likely to yield value. You might as well compare the numbers of grains of sand that one wave washes out to sea on a beach in California to the same in Africa. What does it tell you? Which beach is better… or more right?
Avoiding Magical thinking…
For the sake of time and space, I will take a break with this one until next week, when I will have a few more to comment on… Magical thinking is the vain and possible even prideful thought that if we had just done or said something different, the outcome would have been different.
We cannot know that.
Deeper, we cannot know the consequences of if it were different – would things be better or worse? Too many time travel movies and Star Trek episodes have taught us the dangers of meddling in time… even if we could…
And we can’t.
And if we think that if we had only spoken the magic words or performed the magic action, then our tragedy would have been averted and
avoided, we are dancing with the devil of pride. If we were that powerful and had that much control over reality, then we certainly WOULD have avoided the tragedy. There is no “repairo” spell for our past experiences that makes what we grieve not to have happened.
There weren’t magic words to keep your friend/spouse/child/parent from committing suicide, or divorcing you, or having an affair, or, or, or…
Checking on your child one more time would not have guaranteed their survival… or their passing grades… or that they would not have faced loss… or, or, or…
Y’see, as one author on time wrote… we are like ants who find ourselves at the tip of a branch in a tree. From the tip, we can look back and see the path we must have taken to get here.
That branch, that leaf, that crossroads, that decision…
But we forget that when we picked the twig we chose, we had no way of knowing where it led with any certainty. If we knew that is was wrong, irresponsible, or immoral, then that would still be the case even if NOTHING TRAGIC happened.
If I drive recklessly and nothing bad seems to happen, then I am equally responsible for my illegal and immoral behavior than if my
reckless driving led to the death of a busload of children. Sure, sometimes we do something foolish or wrong and the consequences are terrible… and other times we do something foolish or wrong and no one ever knows and no one seems to suffer, so far as we can see.
So, should I not have driven that way because of the bus accident? No, I shouldn’t have because it is wrong. Obviously, the consequences
were different – but ask, if the person who drives recklessly KNEW that they would cause the accident, would they?
I know that part of wisdom is being able to see what might happen, and it is also about being able to make the decisions needed to best avoid what needs to be avoided, but no one is wise enough to know with certainty the wisdom of our actions – good or bad.
The responsibility is for us to live life the best we can, striving to choose the right thing in humble acknowledgement of how little control of consequences we often really have.
Don’t hear me relieving anyone of the responsibility for their actions – quite the opposite. But so often what we grieve are the consequences we did not and possibly could not foresee.
Accept that you could not forsee.
Obviously you couldn’t…
Or you would have chosen a different branch. Lord knows you would have.
I think I mean the quite literally.