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grief revisited

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Four years ago I suffered a devastating loss. Following a brief and intense experience which held the promise of family, home-coming, travel, art, Zen, and matters sensual, she elected to go her own way. There had, of course, been previous losses — my mom’s death when I was a toddler and my dad’s years later, an ill-fated marriage, a child I’ve never known, and various existential cessation — but none that rattled me so fundamentally.

That’s when this blog was born. I recall the myriad ways with which I stayed afloat amid much hopelessness. I joined a running group and completed a 10K race; I signed up for art classes and sat weeping over the drawing pad; I discovered The West Wing on DVD and sobbed my way through its 154 episodes

Why bring this up today, four years later? Someone at the video store mentioned that he was re-viewing that TV series and on a whim I took home the first season — I’ve been sobbing ever since. I’m amazed how the mere sound of the opening score and sights of familiar character bring back such strong memories. And not just visual memories, but felt sensations deep in my body. Considering the amount of grief work I’ve done over time, for myself and with others, I’m surprised by the intensity of this recurring agony.

A review of the literature shows that widely held assumptions about grieving are not supported by empirical evidence. They include: ♥ grief follows a relatively distinct pattern; ♥ grief is short-term and finite; ♥ grief is a linear process characterized by stages, phases, or tasks of shock, yearning, and recovery; ♥ the grief process needs to be “worked through”; and ♥ the continuation of grief is abnormal, even pathological. Breen, L.J., & O’Connor, M. (2007). The fundamental paradox in the grief literature: a critical reflection. Omega, 55 (3), 199-218. 


8 responses »

  1. life can be a surprising event. we never know what we’ll find when we open our eyes. thanks as always for your honest and deep personal sharing.

  2. You seem to have a deep well of grief….or perhaps once the tap is open, it keeps flowing…leaving much room for your compassion to fill.
    Many of us have never opened the tap to that extent.

  3. It took over 20 years for the grief about the loss of my 10 year marriage to finally subside… however much counselling I had or work I did – and I did a lot, I came to realise that grief has it’s own seasons, it’s own reasons…

    • A time to laugh and a time to weep. And a closer look at our brain to see how it was shaped and wired through traumatic experiences — see Monday’s post. thank you, fiona.

  4. Grief has it’s own seasons… yes, I agree – the the seasons cycle around so it makes sense that grief will as well. Knowing and paying attention and probably most important – noticing that it comes, touches us and then fades.

    thank you p for sharing this as I prepare for a class on grief and loss. the article is very interesting.

  5. It sounds as though the TV series is a trigger for an extremely intense period of grief – having taken you back to a time and a place years ago. I hope this revisitation brings you further healing.

  6. from the “it’s all in your head” dept.:

    Scientists at UCLA have been using brain-imaging techniques to try and understand why some people grieve and ultimately adapt, while others can’t get over the loss.
    See also:

  7. This part of your life profoundly resonated with me. I told a friend a few months ago, it seems all i am doing is saying good-bye to everything in my life (I am an old(er) woman). What I have learned is –
    I grieve what I am emotionally capable of mourning at the time. So, every good-bye in life opens my heart a bit more to the depth of the experience, the loss. My little dog died and I found myself mourning pieces of my divorce from 20+ years ago. Pieces I didn’t (couldn’t) recognize 20+ years ago. “Abnormal” prolonged grief? No. Just a new awareness of the role I play in my life.


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