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Opening to the Experience of Grief

In the first few weeks and months of grief we experience numbness and shock. Just like the body’s physical reaction to trauma we go into shock, our psyches protect us from experiencing the full reality of a death. This is how it’s supposed to be. It’s how we’re wired and thank goodness for that. Rather than experiencing the full reality of our loss, we get it dripped in a little bit at a time.

If you don’t see how this works, think back to the first week following a death. This is the time you had to make or finalize the arrangements, attend the wake and go to the funeral. Around you was the buzz of activity but through it all you felt a bit like you were swimming underwater. You were going through the motions of the accepted protocol with some degree of numbness.

After the funeral you probably had the experience of picking up the phone to call the person who died or walking in the door expecting them to be there. In those brief moments you forgot that they had died and each time you were confronted again with the reality of their loss…drip, drip, drip.

I believe this is the psyche’s way of protecting us from an experience that surely would make us go crazy if we tried to swallow it whole. We don’t have to dive in all at once but we do need to get out of the way to allow the experience to unfold naturally and organically.

In my experience this is the fastest and most complete way through the grieving process…feel it. Stop trying to stuff the feelings. Stop trying to manage the feelings. Stop trying to control the process.

Rather open yourself up to the experience of grief. This is the vulnerability grief requires of us and when it’s done with us, it lets go leaving us scarred and strong, the real kind of strength that’s not dissimilar from the process of tempering steel. Going through the fire makes us strong and remakes us in ways we would never have imagined.

Susan FullerSusan L. Fuller

Photo Credit: Robert Michie

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