Riding a roller coaster is a great thrill for many people. That is, of course, when one is referring to an amusement park ride. The other type of roller coaster is an emotional roller coaster and this refers to going through an experience or situation that has sudden and unpredictable changes. This is the closest description of the grief journey that there is: Unpredictable and sudden changes.
I often use the analogy of a roller coaster when attempting to describe the grief journey to others. I tell them, “It is the roller coaster ride from hell!” Anyone who has been down this path will agree. At any time, the person can be caught off guard by sudden feelings of sadness and sorrow. Feelings of despair and hopelessness may overwhelm them when least expected: Grief bursts happen at the grocery store, in a line up, or at any other innocuous time. If this happens to you or someone you know, understand that it is perfectly normal. The feelings associated with loss are representative for what you are going through.
How do you survive the emotional roller coaster (besides hanging on for dear life)? First of all, cut yourself some slack. The grief process is not something that you can control. What you can do is this: Allow yourself to feel what you need to feel, in the way you need to feel it, for however long you need to feel it. Some other suggestions that may help are:
· When you are having a bad day, delegate responsibilities to others to carry out if they cannot wait until another day or time
· If you must take care of certain details yourself, then do only that which is pressing and urgent – believe me, everything else can wait
As I have written so many times, the grief process is long and not time-specific. I can’t tell you when things will get better, but I do know that you will know. In the meantime, as you travel this path build in measures to help you cope. When I teach students and individuals about the grief journey, I refer to my S.H.A.R.E. program. Here is what it stands for:
· Support – seek support that is both long-term and short-term. It may or may not be the same people that provide both, but you will need both.
· Hope – hope is that intangible thing that gives us strength and support to carry on. You may not feel hopeful, but look for hope in people and things around you. Hope is seeing or feeling that things will get better. It may be difficult to feel hopeful, but look for it and allow it to come into your life.
· Acknowledge – it’s so important that you be able to talk about the life you had, the life you are living now, and what life will look like in the future. This means that you will talk and talk and talk. The person you may be talking with could be a counselor, pastor or trusted friend. You can also do this work by writing in a journal. This is a very important component to healing so do not underestimate the benefit of talking with someone.
· Reflection – this too can be done through journal writing, but it also can be done when sitting by the water’s edge, walking in a park, or any other place that provides you with quiet, privacy and solitude.
· Engage in Life – this is your ‘graduation’ from doing the work of grieving; however, it is also something that we choose to do. When we begin to make plans for the future, connect with friends and activities that we enjoy doing, it is a sign that we are healing. Don’t rush this part and don’t expect others to get to this point too quickly. It takes work and time to get here, but eventually you will get there. You will never forget where you have been or what you have lost – but you do deserve to live your life and to do it with happiness.