Conversations in Grief Blog: Road Closed
The other day, I was driving my kids to school, and just shy of the school driveway, I hit a roadblock. It said, “Road Closed.” As I surveyed the scene, I saw water rushing down the street and realized a water main had broken, and I needed to find another way around. It would take longer to deliver my kids to school and that meant adjusting my schedule. This in many ways, is how it has been the past two years. We have tried to proceed with some level of normal life, and again and again, we hit a roadblock. An obstacle like a broken water main triggers a flood of emotions that we may feel too overwhelmed to process.
We have endured many important events canceled, trips delayed, schools open and then closed to the point where (if you’re like me) it is hard to make plans. We have lived in a constant state of loss, disappointment, and readjusting our lifestyles. We are living with COVID-19 as an unwelcome neighbor who continues to hurl things over the fence at us and remains unbearable. Exhausted, we are also becoming numb to all the things we are still feeling about it.
When we experience loss on top of loss it too can leave us feeling like we are constantly adjusting and disappointed at what our life has become. The feelings that at first were intense with the first loss become a numb state that we exist in as loss compounds loss. When we ignore those feelings, it can create other issues for us that are both physical and emotional. Taking time to grieve is important. How then do we cope or even acknowledge what we are feeling when so much has happened?
Taking inventory of ourselves can be helpful. We may not be able to acknowledge everything and everyone we have lost, but we can acknowledge what we are feeling right now. We begin by sitting and either reflecting on our thoughts or writing down how we feel and why.
For example: “Today, I am thinking about Mary’s wedding and how heartbroken I am that I have to go alone. She loved you so much, and I know will be sad you aren’t here to go with me. I miss you.”
Then give yourself some time to invite your emotions to speak to you. Write them down or express them in a way that feels helpful. Cry, scream, laugh, and feel however you feel. You do not have to justify it to yourself or anyone else. These feelings are your own, and they are okay. You can repeat this exercise as often as you need to express how you feel about your losses.
Author and therapist Megan Divine once said, “When something cannot be changed, the ‘enlightened’ response is to pay attention. To feel it. To turn toward it and say, ‘I see you.’ That’s the big secret to grief: the answer to the pain is in the pain…it deserves to be heard.” Much of what is happening right now cannot be changed and ignoring it won’t make it go away either. By paying attention to how we are feeling (about all we are experiencing) we may regain some sense of ourselves and be better equipped to adjust to the next roadblock.