In the Ocean of Grief

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Grief is exhausting. It is heavy. It can make you feel as though you are adrift in a wild and stormy sea, tossed and battered. You may feel like you are always trying to stay afloat, barely managing to keep your nose above the surface of the water.

We understand the constant effort to not sink even a quarter of an inch lower, below the water’s surface; the feeling that you are treading water in the middle of a bottomless ocean with weights at your feet, awaiting any glimmer of hope. We understand the energy it takes to tread this water. We know you are working so hard, feeling exhausted all the time; your arms and legs fatigued with the constant motion, feeling like you can’t swim any longer.

The desire to reach land is excruciating. What you would give for a rescue boat to come along and retrieve you from the abyss of these grief infested waters! If only there were land in the distance. You might feel a burst of energy to get yourself to the edge of the water, and pull yourself up onto the bank to rest for a minute… just a precious minute.

What if, for now, you could find a way to float for a bit? Float to catch your breath, just float with no intention of making headway to land. Float with the intention of simply resting your weary limbs and conserving energy. It is difficult to be patient in this holding pattern, but know that there are others out there in the water too. You are not alone.

We would like to share with you something that we came across that speaks poignantly to this experience of grief. (The link to the original post can be found at the bottom of the page.) It speaks to how to float, and how to hold on to hope, even when there is no land in sight. We hope it will bring you some comfort and encouragement as you weather this storm.

“As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

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