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Waves of Grief:

waves of grief

One of the more commonly expressed statements about grief from people who are grieving is that rather than being a constant feeling, feelings of grief rise and fall like waves in the ocean and crash like waves at the shore.  

As part of that image consider the idea that Waves of Grief = Waves of Love! Each time a wave of grief crashes over you, mixed with the pain and feelings of loss and sadness remember that we grieve because we love.

Going to your knees under the onslaught of the waves. Learning to get back up:

If you’ve ever stood in the water on an ocean beach, especially after a storm when the waves are strong and high, the waves can knock you to your knees, they can put you on the ground and roll you over and over as they wash back off the shore. When that happens, their strength is often so much greater than yours that all you can do is let it happen, roll with it and as the wave recedes and leaves you breathless on the sand, stand and become ready for the next wave. 

It’s the getting back up that’s the challenge, especially when wave after wave knocks you down and you become fatigued and start running out of strength and breath. But even though it might begin to feel hopeless, you have to get back up and brace for the next wave.

Hope vs. Hopelessness: looking for some light:

Grief can definitely cause feelings of hopelessness, especially early when the waves come over us hour after hour, day after day, week after week. It sometimes gets to feeling like we will never get any relief and this pain will go on forever. 

People often say about their grief, that “this hurts worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. No one can be hurting as much as I am”.

It can feel that bad, and it can feel that unique. Early in our grief journey, grief is almost totally in control and the waves come so fast and the hurt comes at such a visceral level that it is almost 100% emotional and uncontrollable. It can make us sick or sick-feeling all day long and for day after day.  It will almost surely make us cry at times like we will never be able to stop. It can keep us from eating and sleeping well and generally messes with everything in our lives as wave after wave crashes over us. It can feel that bad and that hopeless!

That level of pain happens to a lot of us in our early grief and while ours feels like it’s the worst ever and becomes almost an isolating thing, we can also find ways to come together and tell our stories. We can share that pain, dilute it by the sharing and find some relief by letting it be expressed outside of ourselves and knowing that we are not alone in what we are feeling and going through. 

Fortunately, for a large number of us, with time, the waves become less high, they come less often and we start being able to catch our breath between waves. We can slowly move from grief being in control of our lives to beginning to take control back into our own hands.

Further along, if not the sun, we can at least begin to see the light behind the clouds and the promise that some day, some time, some how, the clouds might actually part and some light will come back into our lives. We can start to live again and begin building the next part of our lives.

Telling your story is important:

This is why we have support groups! A valuable thing, especially in the early part of your grief journey, is to be part of a support group where you can tell your grief story and be able to listen to other people tell their grief and healing stories and the things they had learned along the way. 

Having people at different places along the way, from a few months or even a number of years into the process telling what theyhad learned on their healing journeys can give you ideas and things to think about as well as new ways to understand what is happening to you. 

A very important part of the group experience is that it will let you know that you aren’t alone and that sharing your grief journey will help to create healing over time and that what is happening to you isn’t as unique as it seems to be, and you can learn from hearing other people’s stories as well. 

If people have been surviving grief and sharing their journeys for as long as there have been people and grief, then we can and will survive it as well.

Becoming each others “Friends in Grief”:

This may well be the most important part of what being together in a Support Group environment can do. It may not be obvious, especially early in our journeys, but as we listen and share our stories and the pain and sadness and other emotions we feel, we are also learning about each other. We are building strong bases on which friendships can develop as we help each other to work through our grief, as we build the foundations upon which the next part of our lives and the people in them will rest. 

As time goes by, especially if past friends and relationships change because of our changed lives, these new “friends in grief” can become the core of the people we journey forward with. 

Our social lives, our conversations, our interactions can all build out of these friendships because we always have that basic commonality of “I get it, I know how you’re feeling” that creates a comfort and familiarity no matter our backgrounds or beliefs. We all are bereaved and we can all help each other in the process of hope and healing. And we can become friends! And again, these friends can be the people we travel with into and through the next part of our lives.

Crying and Hugging are OK:

We are often brought to tears by the intensity of our emotions. We all need to feel free to express those emotions and cry when and where we need to. 

One of the things our group of fellow travelers offers us when we meet is a safe place to cry where everyone knows why we cry and that we often can’t really control it and that we need to do it. And hugs are a way of saying thanks to each other for the sharing and the help and the dilution of our pain by its sharing.

Support groups and the people in them offer us a place where its ok to grieve and where no one is telling us to “get over it” or “suck it up” and move on. They are a place where we all understand that it takes time and sometimes a lot of time and we only find healing as and when we find healing, we can’t force it to happen any sooner than it does. 

Connecting with others who share this journey and letting each other know we are there to help in what ever way we can is a very important gift we can give each other.

Getting other help: 

Please seek out professional counseling if dealing with your grief begins to seem too overwhelming. Many of us were care-givers in some way during our lives, let someone now help you in your need as you may have helped others in theirs.


  • How do the waves of grief happen to you? What does it feel like? 
  • Does your grief make you feel isolated?
  • Does it help to know that others share many of the same feelings and experiences during their grief?
  • How do the waves come differently for you and the now if you have been grieving for a while?
  • How do you react when a wave overtakes you?
  • Can you cry and express your grief whenever you need to?
  • What do you think about expressing or not expressing your grief in front of your family or children?
  • How do you deal with other peoples reactions to your expressions of grief?
  • Can you see a time when you can perhaps start to live again in a new way, perhaps with the people you are meeting and becoming friends with through this support group?
  • Would you be willing to start doing other things besides the meetings and potlucks together as friends?  What would that look like?
  • What would you like to do if you had some friends to do or share it with?