Health & Wellness: What to do with that thing called grief
TAHOE/TRUCKEE – There is no inoculation against loss. Despite our best efforts to protect ourselves and our loved ones from it, loss cannot be avoided. The sense of shock and vulnerability, and the consequent sorrow that follows the reality of a loss, are now familiar symptoms to the town of Truckee, which has endured the deaths of some of “its own” children, teens and young adults this past year. Public and private grief challenges us as individuals and as a community to touch a part of our way of life which is not as comfortable, perhaps, as the part that celebrates public and personal achievements.This challenge requires us to enlarge our capacity for wisdom and develop new skills for interacting with one another as we grieve. For many years the language of grief was founded in the idea there are specific and singular stages of grief. The most noted are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This explanation of the grieving process promotes the idea grieving is a linear process, i.e. once you have experienced the anger that erupts as an outcry of heartache you’re done. But a linear map of emotional experience doesn’t capture the multi-faceted process of grieving. This linear approach to “the problem” of grief suggests one can say, “Okay that one is over… next.”It is more accurate to recognize the human capacity for sweeping through our emotions at overwhelming speed. We can (and do) move from love to anger to sorrow to laughter, all during the time it takes to watch an Academy Award-winning movie or ski a powder run down KT-22. That is to say, there is nothing about the grieving process that is either linear or predictable. Today theorists speak more about the features of grief and of grieving styles. Some of us are functional grievers, such as Candace Lightner, the mom who founded Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, or Joe and Iris Lowely, the couple who started Compassionate Friends, an international network of bereaved parents available to support parents after the death of a child.Some of us require solace and time to process the inner workings of our feelings and thoughts, enjoying activities such as journaling, reading, long hikes in the woods. Some of us find comfort in community – the sharing of rituals and intimate conversations with friends and family. Some of us value the support and insight available when consulting a trusted spiritual counselor, minister or therapist. Some of us simply want to be left alone.It is not ours to judge the correct way for an individual to grieve and it is certainly not ours to judge the time it takes for an individual to fully process his grief. It is only ours to be willing to embrace the experience of grief. The willingness to be a witness to our grief and to the grief of our community requires courage, patience and faith: Faith in our capacity to grow; faith in the resilience of our children; and faith our grief has the capacity to transform loss into some mysterious and yet undiscovered form of blessing.- Kathryn Hill is a marriage and family therapist and maintains a private practice in Truckee with a focus in loss and grief.
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