By: Melanie Wolf, AMFT
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” These words open A Grief Observed, the tender account of C.S. Lewis’s experience of grief following the death of his beloved wife, Joy Davidman. Like other accounts of grief and loss, this book gives a glimpse into a particular story with the intricacies of relationship, personality, and experience that make every story of grief unique. Lewis’s account also reveals universal aspects of grieving: that is comes in waves, shows up in every facet of our lives, and that over time we must integrate it into our lived experience.
People often describe grief as coming in waves. Some massive, others nearly manageable, and all the while always rolling in. These waves often come at unexpected times and in unexpected ways.
We drive by a tree our beloved would have loved to climb.
Their office, bedroom, or favorite chair is achingly empty.
We wake from a dream only to realize yet again they are no longer here to share it with.
The calendar passes what would have marked another year of their life or our relationship.
As these waves come, they can grip our hearts and even our bodies - much like the fear C.S. Lewis likens grief to - and surprise us with accompanying tears, anger, disbelief, and anxiety.
Grief can feel disorienting and scary; it can feel like having the rug yanked from under our feet.
The most helpful way to not feel utterly blindsided by the experience of grief is to become familiar with it, to know a little about what you might expect. Here are some things to remember about grief:
Grief is natural. It is the emotional, spiritual, physical response to losing something we love.
Grief is a unique experience for each person. Just as no two people live and love the exact same, no two people grief the exact same.
Grief is a process. It is not linear but can rather feel quite circuitous. While there are common experiences like denial and anger, they are experienced differently by everyone and in no particular order.
There is no exact timeline for grief. Healing looks different for every person - while we expect to see movement toward integration and healing, there is no exact time table for that process.
Grief can be isolating. One of the scariest parts of grief can be feeling alone and misunderstood. Remembering that there are others who have walked and are walking a similar journey can be lifesaving. Grief counseling, grief support groups, and grief resources are excellent places to look for help. Reaching out can be one of the most important steps toward healing.
Growth can come through grief. While grief can be painful and unknown, grief can stretch and grow us in profound and meaningful ways.
While grief following the death of a loved one can’t be avoided, don’t go through it alone. Reach out for support. #WeKnowHowToHelp.