There's no right way to "do grief"
Updated: Dec 28, 2022
A couple of months after my son Chad died, I was sitting in my grief counselor’s office, spending the better part of an hour telling her about all the ways that I wasn’t grieving “right.” I was hoping like heck to get some help, some form of direction. But I felt like I was banging my head against the wall.
You see, I was hell-bent on getting it right. I wanted through and out. I thought there was a process. I thought there were “steps.” I thought that if I did this, and then this, and then that, and then this, I’d work through it and get to the other side. To the other side of my grief. I honestly thought I could deal with it and move along.
I was ridiculously wrong. So, so, mistaken. The experts in my life (many who were friends) knew better but kept it to themselves. Maybe they didn’t tell me because they were being merciful. Maybe they didn’t tell me because they had no idea what to do with me. Maybe both. In any case, they knew then what I came to know in my own time.
There is no “other side” to my grief. There is no destination. There is only slow change. And that is almost impossible to understand until you have a little time between you and your loss. And even then, it’s hard to understand. Honestly, I think it’s impossible to figure out.
Until quite recently, I used to be a “figure it out” girl. So, during that early-in-my-grief counseling session, I kept talking. I kept talking and talking and talking. Incessantly wondering aloud - searching for the official “to-do list." You know, the one-size-fits-all checklist for grief. I had talked myself into a circle by the time the session was over.
And then my counselor dropped the bomb: “the way you’re doing it? That’s exactly the way you’re supposed to be doing it - for you.”
An hour and a decent amount of money… wasted. At least, that’s what I thought, right then and there...
Now, I get it. Two and a half years later, I get it. A little. I don’t try to figure any of it out anymore because that gives me a headache or makes me cry. This lesson was hard, and it’s not over. The process will never be over (sad but true). There’s more hard stuff coming 'round the bend. And I'm pretty sure there will be some good stuff too. It’s all part of the slow change. And I have no other option but to surrender to it.
So now I’m doing a new thing. It’s working so far. I'm trying to "enter the mystery of God’s presence."
I wouldn’t recommend that you try to figure that out. Because, as my counselor said, it’s how I’m supposed to do it for me. You, my friend, have your own way. (But please, feel free to give my way a little try, because...well, you never know...)
Remember those “life is good” T-shirts from a few years ago? I have my own riff on one of them. It goes like this: “Those who know it don’t know they know it. But they might know that they feel it. Maybe.”
Go your own way. It'll be worth it.