Conversations in Grief Blog: "Grounded"
by: Laura Wessels
I had a good day recently. I chatted with a co-worker. Someone helped me figure out a couple of difficult issues. Another co-worker gave me words of appreciation. And my supervisor communicated that she valued me. As I headed to work the next day, I felt encouraged, and then I felt hopeful. Instead of the isolation of my laundry room (my home office) or a silent and dark team room, I had been seen and heard. I saw and listened. My depleted tank was being re-filled.
A member of Morning Joe, Rainbow’s weekly grief support group, shared a picture she snapped in Door County on the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death. She explained that the darkness symbolized the loss and grief that overshadowed her when her husband died. And the light symbolized the life and love they shared. She concluded, “With each passing day, month and year, I am moving forward in the sunlight of memories.”
(On the one-year milestone of her husband’s death, a widow snapped this picture that captures the darkness of her grief but also the light of their love and life together and the memories she carries with her.)
The word I want to use for both of us is "grounded."
Two years of living in a pandemic world...no...two years of surviving in a pandemic world has left many of us numb, unable or unwilling to feel, lethargic, empty, and unmotivated. We were and still are untethered, like a kite being tossed in the wind or waves being tossed in the ocean. It keeps us from doing the things we normally were so good at doing. Those of us who had a loved one in a care facility were kept from visiting them. And even though most restrictions are now lifted, we may feel the guilt of not visiting as often as we did before the pandemic. I confess that I used to visit my dad twice a week and now I only go once a week. Work habits, exercise habits, church habits, even gathering-with-friends habits, and vacationing habits have changed. Nothing is the way it used to be. We still don’t “do” the way we used to do.
It takes work, intentionality, and effort to begin "feeling" again. These are muscles that have atrophied over this interminable pandemic.
That’s why my day of direct interaction with my co-workers and the grieving wife’s choice of embracing sunlight was so grounding. We are finding our energy. We are starting to feel again.
And while we are feeling some hopeful emotions, other emotions may also need to be felt, emotions of loss and pain as we get present to the horror and trauma of what we have survived. Our hope is laced with sadness. I’m reminded of “Sadness” in the Disney movie Inside Out, where the main characters are the emotions of a little girl named Riley. The movie’s plot centers on Riley’s experience of moving across the country with her parents. The emotion of “Joy” wants to focus only on what was/is good, but realizes the vital role of the emotion of “Sadness.” Riley needs to express her sadness to receive comfort. It is only when Riley expresses her sadness that she begins feeling hopeful and finding healing.
As you work your muscles of feeling both joyful and sad, may you discover stability and the awareness that you may be back on solid ground.