When Words Fail: Grief from Unexpected Loss
“Time is the great healer.” —Lori Robinson (HEART GUIDE, in memory of her sister)
“Good friends were around me immediately. … To accept help is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned when faced with a crisis.” —Cathy Burton (HEART GUIDE, in memory of her husband).
As a child, I spent my summer with a family who lived next door to my grandparents. This family took care of me while my mother worked. One night, while driving home from vacation, their camper truck collided with another vehicle. In that accident, Ruth (the woman who watched me) lost her beloved husband and her two youngest children.
When we hear of tragic loss (or experience it ourselves) words are often inadequate to express the depth of our sorrow. Nothing makes it better. When people we dearly love die unexpectedly, there’s no time to mentally or emotionally prepare for their passing. We are abruptly thrust into the unknown.
A mother in HEART GUIDE who lost her son acknowledges the shock that can accompany a loved one’s sudden death. She says, “The shock wasn’t just a week or a month. It carried with me for probably almost a year. … I don’t know how to explain it to somebody who hasn’t been down that path. I’m still just trying to get by.”
So what helps?
It’s different for everyone.
The mother who experienced shock notes that her dogs helped her. She says, “My dogs saved me, initially and still to this day. … They give me a reason to get up and keep moving and tend to their needs.”
For some people, poetry is a saving grace, with symbolism and metaphors that somehow express the inexpressible. For others, dancing, music, art, songs, or quiet meditation allows sorrow to travel a healing path beyond what ordinary words can adequately convey. And for still others, nature’s fluid beauty and endless expanse of sky offers a peaceful balm to a hurting heart.
In the several decades since my childhood, Ruth raised her remaining children, enjoyed time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and then passed away at age 86, leaving a long legacy of love for all who knew her.
During periods of great sorrow, may our own hearts be gently nourished, and may we gradually find brief moments of healing in the sunrise of each new day.
Peace & love,