The grieving process takes time.
When I sit with clients who are grieving the loss of loved ones, I often hear similar questions such as, “when will this be over?,” “what can I do to get through this quicker?,” “why do I still feel this way?” And the answers are not typically what the client wants to hear. The answers are, “you are doing it,” “it will be over when it’s over,” and “you still feel this way because you are grieving.” When I hear those questions I know there is an internal tension within the client between “I don’t want to do this anymore” and “I need to do this.”
Our culture feeds the idea that there should be a quick fix, a process, an “app” for that. In our world of “less pain is better”, and “faster is best”, we assume we can apply those beliefs to our grief. But the truth is grief takes time and energy; at times it will require our full attention. We assume that the faster we get through the grief the better life will be because the pain will be gone and we will feel normal again, and why wouldn’t we want to do that as quickly as possible? There is the part of us that wants to be ourselves again, to find normalcy as we knew it prior to the loss. What we need to understand is that we can never go back. From the point of loss forward, our lives are different and a new normal has to emerge.
The metamorphosis of grief.
I often use the metaphor of the caterpillar, cocoon and emerging butterfly to help hurting clients understand the process of grieving. The caterpillar is our life before the loss; the cocoon represents our mourning where we need shelter and care as we begin to realize that change must occur and who we were is no longer an option; the process of emerging from the cocoon is the grief. It takes our time and attention, it can feel tedious and painful, it can feel exhausting. While it appears to be ironic, it is this very process, this striving, pushing and struggling that builds the muscles we will need for the new normal, the butterfly. To try and bypass or shorten that process would produce a butterfly that can’t fly, can’t survive, and can’t adjust to the new normal. Abundant healthy grieving is working through the painful memories, listening to our hearts, crying when we need to cry, embracing laughter when it comes, being vulnerable with trusted friends/family, and being part of a community. These are healthy signs of movement toward our new normal.
When I lost my husband, I was greatly comforted by a Bible verse in the book of Romans (chapter 5 verses 3-4). It says, “We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
And hope emerges.
Hope is what we need and that is what emerges from our grieving process; not hope that life will be the same as it was, but hope that the new life will be abundant.
If you think you need help finding that new normal, discovering the hope of a new life, let one of our counselors at Gilstrap & Associates walk with you on the path of grief. It would be our privilege.
Brenda Stutler, LMHC and Certified Grief Counselor
Gilstrap & Associates