I talk about my grief journey as my swimming in the ocean, struggling to get to the beach. Now I want to talk about what happens when I finally get to Grief Beach. Along with all the hot sand, sharp rocks, quicksand, and dangerous cliffs…there is a Rollercoaster ahead that I must ride.
It is called the Emotional Roller Coaster. It takes up an entire section of the beach, and I can’t get around it, I have to go through it. It has deep shark infested water on one side, and high cliffs on the other side. But beyond it is a shady beach with calm waters called peaceful acceptance. It is where I want to be. It is from there that I can watch the sunrises and sunsets.
So I get on the Rollercoaster, I am afraid, there has been so much pain, and I know there will be more to come. I want to go back to where it was safe, but an Emotional Storm came in and washed that part of my life away. Some of the turns are not so bad, the loops are tiny, but then there are the big ones, they are so steep, and make me go so fast…sometimes I just fall off! But when I get back to the starting gate, I am wiser, I know that turn that dumped me off, and I can prepare for it. I can take a deep breath, and hold on tighter, and lean into it instead of away from it.
I tried holding my breath and closing my eyes at the top of the coaster, but I went so fast I missed the gate to the beach, and had to go around again. When I was brave enough to come off the top, knowing that it might hurt, but not as badly as it hurt being drug across the rocks at the bottom of the ocean, with my eyes and heart wide open, breathing deeply, I made it to the beach again!
The lesson is that even though it is frightening, we must move on through this Emotional Roller Coaster of Grief. And each time we go through a situation, we grow. Sometimes we do not get the outcome we were hoping for, and are thankful the day came to an end. How we ride that coaster is totally up to us. No one can “tell” us how to grieve, although many will try. We each have to find our own way, sometimes we need help to guide us along, and sometimes we just need the space to put our own footprints in the sand. Sometimes we need both of these things at the same time.
Emotions are truly energy in motion. We guide that energy with each breath we take. We can release energy through tears. I think of them as washing the sand off my face from the beach I just got dumped on. And some days it takes a lot of tears to get that sand off. But some days I need no tears, and the wind alone blows the sand off.
We all need balance in our lives, for every sharp jagged rock on the beach; there are the most beautiful colored rocks and sea shells lying right beside it.
When my first son died, I had no balance, just a huge hole in my heart where it had been ripped in two. I was 21 years old, I didn’t know who I was let alone what grief was. I floundered in that ocean for a very long time, my guilt told me to stay there, I deserved to be slammed into every rock, and stung by every jellyfish that passed by. I kept my daughter afloat in the sailboat, but I was drowning in the ocean right beside her. When I finally made it to Grief Beach, I needed a hand, as I was too tired to pull myself out of the water. I saw that Emotional Roller Coaster looming on the beach, and I was too exhausted to approach it myself. My friend gave me a yank, spun me around and said you can do this, you deserve to be free of all this guilt, fear, and deep pain, I am right beside you, walk this way.
So when I am not on Grief Beach, how do I gain control over my emotions? I face them head on. Like the children’s song, you can’t go around them; you have to go thru them. When you are grieving, the emotional triggers are everywhere. I plan for them. I know certain things will get to me. I have developed the “MINI ANGEL HUG” as a coping device to stop tears. I can take a deep breath, and turn away to regain my composure. Then I can respond to painful comments with the confidence that it will only hurt me if I allow it to. In my journey I have had it all said to me at some time…and I have responded in all ways, tears, anger, and disbelief that they actually said that to me??
Angel Hugs ~ Take those empty arms, open them wide, open your hands, and then bring them in and cross your heart. As you do this, close your eyes and feel the love of your departed. Don’t just think of them, feel the love coming into your whole being, like a white light swirling down from above. Feel the energy pulsating into your soul. When you open your eyes you will feel amazing. I can now do a “mini hug” when something triggers that emotion, I can reach up with one hand and hold it over my heart for a second and feel the love helping me through my day.
Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf. Choose the ones that will bring you all the way onto the beach. And ride the Emotional Roller Coaster with your head held high, and arms across your heart, and get thru it to the shady side of the beach! I will be waiting there for you, lets watch the sunsets together!
Below are Sandy’s videos about her emotional rollercoaster ride thru her grief.