Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ocean Waves and Grief

I grew up in Southern California and one of my favorite activities was (and still is) going to the beach. When I was a kid my parents owned an apartment in Laguna Beach that we would frequent a lot. It was there that I learned about the ocean, waves, body surfing and boogie boarding. I learned to respect the ocean and it's power (water is the most powerful force on earth) and to never turn my back on it.

I remember one time when my mom and I were walking on some rocks looking at starfish and turned our backs on the ocean and a big wave came and knocked us over and dragged us across the rocks. We emerged bloody and bruised but learned an important lesson.

Turning your back on the ocean is like turning your back on grief and ignoring it.

I remember another time when a set of waves came out of nowhere and I got trapped in the set. I was thrust under water for what seemed like eternity but in reality was only a few seconds. I felt helpless, disoriented, and frightened. When I did surface I found another huge wave bearing down on me and under I went.

Losing a loved one and going through the grief process is like being caught in a set of big waves. Waves of anger, doubt, denial, sadness, depression, loneliness, helplessness, and confusion that keep crashing down on you. Despite what some experts say, the grief process is not a neat and tidy set of stages you successfully go through and move on from. Rather they are like emotional waves that come in all different sizes and shapes that knock the snot out of you. When they break, you are broadsided, and find yourself tossing, spinning, and bouncing off the bottom of the ocean with a mouth full of salt water and sand.

If you fight, it takes longer to get to the surface. But if you float with the current, you come right to the top. Floating when we are frightened is difficult. It takes trust, focus, and concentration. Dealing with the death of a loved one is similar. In order to cope, it takes TRUST. Trust leads to hope. Trust that God is in control even though it doesn't seem like it. Hope for a better tomorrow and that life can be good again.

We all need hope to cope.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5-6


p.s. I know some people (and I'm sure you do to) who got caught in a set of ocean waves and it frightened them and now they don't venture into the ocean anymore. I don't know about you but I'm ready to venture back out into the deep end and live life to the fullest! I think Jackie would want it that way ... :-)

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