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Rushing Grief

When I sit with clients who are grieving the loss of loved ones, I often hear questions such as,

“When will this be over?”, “What can I do to get through this quicker?”, “Why do I still feel this

way?”. When I hear those questions, I know there is an internal tension within the client

between, “I don’t want to do this anymore” and “I need to do this”. The answers are not

typically what the client wants to hear. The answers are, “You are doing it”. “It will be over

when it’s over,” and “You still feel this way because you are grieving.”

Our culture feeds the idea that there should be a quick fix, a process, an “app” for that. In our

world of “less pain is better”, and “faster is best”, we assume we can apply those beliefs to our

grief. But the truth is, grief takes time and energy; at times it will require our full attention. We

believe that the faster we get through the grief the better life will be because the pain will be

gone and we will feel normal again, and why wouldn’t we want to do that as quickly as possible?

There is the part of us that wants to be ourselves again, back to normalcy as we knew it prior to

the loss. What we need to understand is that we can never go back. From the point of loss

forward our lives will be different. A new construct of life must emerge and that takes time.

I often use the metaphor of the caterpillar, cocoon, and emerging butterfly to help clients

understand the process of grieving. The caterpillar is our life before the loss; the cocoon

represents our mourning where we need shelter and care as we begin to realize that change must

occur and who we were is no longer an option. The process of emerging from the cocoon is the

grief. It takes our time and attention; it can feel tedious, painful, and exhausting. For the

butterfly, the struggling and pushing through the cocoon develops its muscles it will need for its

new purpose. To try and by-pass or shorten that process would produce a butterfly that cannot

fly and cannot survive in the new world it has been thrust into.

Once we grasp that the process of grieving is purposeful, we can step into it fully. What does

“pushing through the cocoon” look like for us? Healthy grieving is processing through the

painful memories, allowing our hearts to cry when we need to cry, embracing laughter when it

comes, being vulnerable with trusted friends/family, and being part of a community. These are

healthy signs of movement toward our new normal. So, while it appears to be ironic, it is this

very process, the striving, pushing, and struggling that builds the framework we will need for our

new life.

When I lost my husband, I was greatly comforted by a Bible verse in the book of Romans

(chapter 5 verses 3-4). It says, “We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering

produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.” Hope is what we need and

that is what emerges from our grief; not hope that life will be the same as it was but hope that the

new life can be abundant.

Brenda Stutler, LMHC and Certified Grief Counselor

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