My family recently visited a water park. My husband and I grabbed a double raft and hit the wave pool. I was sitting on top of the raft while my husband stood at the side guiding me through the water. Since the waves are only turned on every 15 minutes, we entered when it was calm. We placed ourselves in the back half of the pool and visited with friends while waiting to ride the waves.
The screams from those next to the “wave wall” signaled the waves were coming. It was then I learned we had set up our raft at the breaking point in the waves. My husband was having so much fun, he didn’t notice I was spending most of my time under the water resulting in him pushing me into the breakers and not moving away from them.
So instead of the fun ride on top of the surf I expected, the relentless waves continued to break over my head. I could barely catch my breath before the next breaker.
I’ve found that mourning can look similar to my experience in the wave pool. I lost my cousin and very best friend, Shelley, to brain cancer in October of 2011. The grief was immense then but the mourning continues even today.
Sometimes the waves of grief comes on unexpectedly and I find myself drowning in the breakers of sadness. This week has been especially hard. There was a little girl with long blond hair at church last Sunday who reminded me of Shelley as a child. Then someone wrote a Facebook post about their grandchild and used a nickname Shelley used for her daughter. Another day, something funny happened and I thought about texting it to Shelley. Then I remembered.
At times, when triggers catch me by surprise, I have to excuse myself to go somewhere private until I can gain control of my emotions.
Other times, I see the waves coming and the turbulent feelings that threaten. Shelley’s birthday is one such occasion.
While most women stop celebrating and make self-depreciating comments about getting older, Shelley viewed it as a time to laugh and have a great time.
Since her birthday falls on May 21, she lightheartedly deemed the month of May, “Shelleypalooza” and would invite everyone to celebrate. Tongue in cheek, she would share her wish list “just in case someone wanted to buy her a gift,” and would surmise nothing bad could happen to anyone during that month.
Because I see crashing waves of grief on May 21st, I make a plan to deal with the emotions.
I take the day off and spend it alone. I allow God to comfort me by praying and reading the Bible. Many memories Shelley and I shared were only humorous to us, which made us laugh all the more. Now I think on those memories alone. The entire day is a roller coaster of emotions, laughing and crying. My family is warned about my warring emotions and the effect it may have on my patience and temper.
Cut yourself a break when unexpected waves of grief hit – There will be times we are taken by surprise by a trigger and find ourselves grieving all over again. There is nothing wrong with emotion. If you’re in a professional environment, excuse yourself and find somewhere to be alone until you can gain control. But accept you are dealing with very real human emotions and that’s okay.
Plan for expected waves of grief – Everyone mourns differently. Some celebrate the lost loved one’s birthday with family and friends. Others need to be alone. Holidays may offer opportunities to honor our loved one by volunteering in one capacity or another. Plan ahead and give yourself time to express emotion.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – If your grief is monumental or you find that you can no longer function because of overwhelming sadness, call a good Christian counselor, your doctor, your pastor, or a crisis hotline. The following site offers phone numbers for a myriad of hotlines. http://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/resources/mental-health-hotline-numbers-and-referral-resources/. Reach out. There are many who are waiting to come alongside you.
Waves of grief will come. But by accepting our emotions, planning for the expected waves, and asking for help when needed, we can live a healthy life. And I’m sure your loved one would want you to live a fulfilled life and not a holed-up existence refusing to carry on.
Most importantly, allow God to comfort you.
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” ~ Matthew 5:4
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson
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