An Ocean of Grief

Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.

Vicki Harrison 

Of the many writings on grief, this article, in particular, resonates closely. Oddly enough, although that saying at first made me feel helpless and angry, it also gave me hope and comfort. If someone there survived that sea of pain, so could I. Perhaps someday I’ll learn to swim.

At first, when the ship is wrecked, we float, holding onto the last happy memory so tight, desperately wishing that it was all a nightmare and that when we wake up everything would be okay. But unfortunately, nothing will be the same because whatever we do or want, the one who left is gone forever, never to return. This is when the waves are the toughest and most frequent. They come crashing down on us, taking our breath away and knocking us over. They cause the void in our hearts, a sheer emptiness that somehow takes over and retains our souls threatening to kill our light entirely. 

After a while, even though the waves are still agitated, they let us catch our breath. We’re able to operate between those waves. There is life between them. But these waves come unexpectedly because you never know what would trigger the grief. It could be anything: a picture, a word or a sentence, a scent, or a place. I am unsure if this is better or worse because the heart still aches. We long to hold that person close, just for one moment at least.

Then somewhere down the line, the waves calm down. We can now see them coming. A birthday, an anniversary, or just any joyous occasion. They give us time to prepare ourselves, both mentally and physically. So when it washes over us, we know that we will survive. Soaking wet, we are sure we will get to the other side, still holding onto that happy memory. The waves never stop coming. The wound remains. The pain lessens, but it’s never gone. Sadly, all we can do is learn to swim.

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