In an earlier blog titled The Journey Of Grief I described grief as a journey from having your loved one right in front of your face, to their presence being more in the heart and in memories. The woman who first explained this analogy to me said her daughter seemed to sit on her shoulder and live in her heart. I have used that description in most of the grief speeches I make, in a DVD presentation, and in the private companioning I do. It has proven to be a great tool for describing the process and even the goal we look forward to after the worst part of the storm is passed. I have gained a lot of insight from watching the responses and listening to the stories the analogy stirs to the surface. From these observations and stories, I have developed some conclusions that seem to fit most people. It will be interesting to hear the comments from readers to see if others respond in kind. Some of my conclusions are:
IT TAKES A DECISION
Each person must decide to allow the journey to continue. That is much harder than it sounds. At first any movement away from the memory being right in front of your face and on your mind constantly feels like you are trying to forget. Any movement feels like we are saying we did not love the person as much as we should have or thought we did. At first, any effort by the family to get us to “move on” makes us angry and any movement on their part toward “getting things back to normal” is devastating to us.
The woman who first told the story said, “The day came when it was all right for her to move.” Another woman speaking about her husband said, “I woke up one day and said, ‘John, I am tired of you being dead!’” That may seem like strange wording but she was making a decision to move on.
YOU MAKE THE DECISION WHEN YOU ARE READY TO DO SO
No one can tell you when you will be ready. No one can tell you when you should be ready. There is no schedule. There is no “it’s been too long.” You will begin the next step of the journey when it is time to do so and until that time comes within you, all the advice and pressure in the world will not make you move.
YOU MAY GET CLOSE MANY TIMES BEFORE YOU MOVE
You may get right up to the point and back off. You may do that many times. Moving is scary. Who knows what it will feel like? What if, after the move, we don’t feel as close to our loved one?
I have a great friend named Paula Loring who is the best leader of grief groups I know anywhere. She is marvelous. She has a rather unique outline of the grieving process. She says grief is:
When the heart breaks
When the heart bleeds
When the heart surrenders
When the heart heals
Maybe the analogy of the loved one moving from in front of our face to living in our hearts happens when and only when the heart surrenders. Who can say when that will be? Who can say when that should be?
I have a dear friend who just can’t seem to get to that place. She receives a lot of criticism because everyone thinks she should be over it by now. The problem is, she feels closer to her daughter when she is hurting and just can’t believe she will feel even closer when she surrenders and allows the process to continue. As we walked together I began to notice that if she had a good day at one session, she would be almost a basket case by the next session. In the interim she would find something to make her sad and bring tears. That is when she felt close. That is when she thought she was honoring her daughter. It took a long time and a lot of courage for her to allow any movement. So we just gave her the time and waited on the courage.
The surprising thing about the story and the many I have heard since is, after the loved one moves from dominating our every thought and conscious moment to live in our heart and on our shoulder, their presence becomes more real and the memories change from bringing pain to a sense of peace. Turning the memories that seem to crush us now into the most precious possessions we can possibly have may be the reason for the journey.
Copyright Doug Manning of In-Sight Books, Inc. Doug’s books, CDs and DVDs are available at www.insightbooks.com. Post originally published on Doug’s Blog at The Care Community www.thecarecommunity.com.
Updated: September 9, 2015