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Grief is a journey

by Eve Isaak


Grief may be compared to a journey – a road that we must travel between how things were and how they will be; an interior journey that moves inward to central issues of meaning; it is an image of wholeness. Despite the many twists and turns, even when the next part of the journey cannot be seen, there is only one way to go – forward. There are no wrong turnings. The way leads to the centre and then returns. Grief is like any significant journey, for the traveller is changed by their experiences along the way and the once familiar world is different on the traveller’s return.

Grief knows no boundaries of colour, race, creed, religion, age or gender. Regardless of who we are, and where we come from, we will all experience grief in our lifetimes due to the many losses and changes in our lives. Grief is a powerful thing. We probably never thought we would say this, but grief is a good thing. It is a way to let go of a lot of pain; but it is something to go through, not hold on to.

Grief is the natural variety of responses you experience when someone important to you dies. It affects you in many ways: socially, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The death of someone important upsets your relationships, your daily life and your ideas about how the world works. Grief is the process by which you cope with the significance of this loss, begin to adjust to the changes in your life and make some order out of the chaos that has resulted from this death.

In the beginning you may experience a sense of unreality. You may be shocked at the news of the death and feel bewildered or stunned. This may be a time when you need care and assistance with practical tasks. Then there comes a time in which you are coming to terms with the meaning of this loss in your life.

Why is grief so difficult to go through? Because, for each loss we experience, there is a secondary loss. And then all these mixed emotions and feelings which are not neatly packaged in sequence, come at you all at once.

Emotional pain can bring physical distress. This pain is real, not imagined, as your body is reacting to your emotions. Heartache is a very real sensation. Chest pain is quite common among bereaved people. You may find that your normal patterns of eating and sleeping are altered. Make sure that your doctor knows about your bereavement so that he or she can advise you appropriately.

Your social support network may also be changing. People may expect you to feel better than you do. You may not find the support that you want. The company of other bereaved people may be very comforting to you as they can understand much of your experience.

At some point in your grief, you will be aware that your loss is becoming a part of your past experience. The good days outnumber the bad days more and more. Mostly, you are able to remember things about the person with a sense of comfort. Your grief is not over, as there very likely will be times when you will intensely miss the person who died. May your journey lead you to the centre and back. May you be blessed with companions as you travel.

Eve Isaak is a Chaplain and Grief Support Worker.  She has extensive training and experience in Grief and Loss, and Pastoral Counseling, serving as a professional chaplain in hospitals, care homes, funeral homes and prisons since 1992.

Isaak is presenting the first four sessions on the series “Grief is a Journey” at Clearbrook MB Church, Abbotsford.

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