Grief is… like an earthquake
Grief is like an earthquake. The first one hits you and the world falls apart. Even after you put the world together again there are aftershocks, and you never really know when those will come.
There is no single definition of grief. It feels different to each person who experiences it. It changes from day to day, month to month, and year to year. Sadness, anger, loneliness, numbness, fear, confusion, and even relief are just a few of the components of grief.
There just isn’t a magic “right” way to grieve. Grief doesn’t have an expiration date (although many people who have never had a loss may think there is one). Grief also looks different depending on how new or recent your loss.
What does your grief look like? What did it look like in the beginning? Has it changed?
For me, in the beginning, I remember feeling numb and functioning like a robot – going through the motions but not really feeling anything. It was like a bad dream that I wanted to wake up from but couldn’t.
Emily was 13 when her father died. Two years later, this is how she describes grief:
Grief is like the rain. Sometimes it only drizzles, but other times it pours so much you feel like you’re going to drown in it.
Cassie’s father died when she was 15. In the two years since his death, taking time to remember her dad during the “roller coaster” of grief has helped Cassie ride out the low times:
Grief to me is like a never-ending roller coaster. Imagine a roller coaster that is just a series of hills, up and down, up and down. Sometimes I’m on the top of the hill: being up there can last for days, sometimes weeks. But then something little – a memory, a song, a picture – will trigger emotions that send you flying back down the hill. And then the only think you can do is brace yourself, hold on tight, and go flying down the tracks. Once you hit the bottom, it’s uphill from there.
Elizabeth, who was 12 when her father died, has another great way to explain how grief changes over time:
It’s like a cut. At first it hurts so bad, and you bleed for a while. You stop the bleeding, the pain subsides, and you put on a bandage to hide the mark and help it heal faster. You develop a scab, but every once in a while, that scab might break and you’ll bleed again. Once that stops and the pain is gone, you still have a scar. That scar becomes a part of you, and it’s something people will know about. It will stay with you for the rest of your life, as will grief.
Sixteen-year-old Ella, who lost her father in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, sums up the roller-coaster ride of grief’s different stages with honest and reassuring words:
Grief is a process. You go through stages of grief, and everyone’s grief is different in both its form and its order. Some people will be angry, then sad, then very depressed, then suddenly be fine. I was scared, then a little bit angry, sad, depressed, okay, depressed, okay, angry, sad, etc. It’s a cycle, or a wave. It continues on and on, but it changes periodically. I don’t think it ends, but it stops being so prominent in your life.
Now I ask, how would you finish the sentence: Grief is… ? Share in the comments below.