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.