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Waves of grief:

One of the most commonly expressed statements I’ve heard about grief from people who are grieving and in looking back at my own journey is that rather than being a constant, feelings of grief rise and fall and crash like waves at the shore.  

waves of grief

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 during or just 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 beach. When that happens, since their strength is so much greater than yours, all you can do is let it happen, roll with it and as the wave recedes and leaves you breathless on the sand, try to stand and become ready for the next wave. So too for the waves of grief!

In both cases it’s the getting back up that is the challenge, especially if wave after wave knocks you down and you become fatigued and start running out of strength and breath. Even though it might begin to feel hopeless, you have to figure out how to get back up and brace for the next wave. 

But, just as the waves on a beach begin to grow smaller and come less often after a storm has passed, so too, the waves of grief begin to settle and become less severe and overwhelming with time, especially as you actively work on your grief.

As part of that image I also want to add 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. 

Hope vs. Hopelessness: looking for some light:

Grief can cause feelings of hopelessness, especially early on 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. 

I’ve heard people 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! Early in the 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 it generally messes with everything in our lives as wave after wave crashes over us. It can feel that disorienting and that hopeless!

Writing from a perspective of almost 8 years out and from what I’ve heard at many support group meetings as well, I can say that for most people, with time, the waves do indeed become less high, they come less often and we start being able to catch our breaths between waves. We can slowly move from grief being in control of our lives to beginning to take control back into our own hands. We can start to experience life again between the waves.

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! One of the most valuable things I experienced in the early part of my grief journey was coming to support group meetings and telling my grief story and being able to listen to other people tell their grief 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 they had learned on their journeys, gave me ideas to think about and new ways to understand what was happening to me. 

Almost the most important part of the experience was that it let me know that I wasn’t alone and that sharing my grief journey and the healingthat followed, would help to create still more healing over time and that what was happening to me wasn’t as unique and isolating as it seemed to be, and I could learn from others 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 survive it as well. 

If you can find a formal support group to join or just get together with others who share a common journey, talking about grief with those fellow travelers is a powerful way to help navigate the many things we experience on our grief journeys.

Crying, hugging and talking about our grief is always OK:

We may find that we are brought to tears by the intensity of our emotions. We all need to feel free to express those emotions and cry if, when and where we need to. We also need to be able to talk about our grief as often and for as long as we need to and to feel that it’s ok to do that.

One of the things a group of fellow travelers offers us when we meet, is a safe group of people to talk and/or cry (or learn to cry) with 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 express our grief and mourning in whatever way we need to 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 sometime a lot of time and we only heal as and when we heal, 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 whatever 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? 

Do the waves come differently 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?

How do you deal with other peoples reactions to your expressions of grief?