Do you ever feel like no one understands your experience of loss? The best way I know to describe grief is with an analogy I first heard several years ago from a woman who worked in hospice care. I have added to it over the years, and now I would like to share it with you.
The river of life
Imagine you are in your boat on the river of life. Your boat is comfortable and sail worthy. All of a sudden, without warning, the river leads you over Niagara Falls. All you know is you are falling and it is very noisy. You crash into the freezing cold water and drop deep into the turbulent waters. There are bubbles everywhere and you have no idea which way is up. You start to feel pressure in your chest and it feels like you are going to die.
You realize you have to get air. Miraculously, you manage to get your mouth above water and you gulp in some air, only to be pulled under and tossed around again. You continue this way for what seems like an eternity, just managing to steal enough breath to survive. You are exhausted, wet and cold. You are shocked by what happened. You are finding it difficult to carry on as your energy is depleted and nothing is familiar.
A brief moment to rest and reflect
At some point you see a log and you are able to grab on to it. The log gives you some relief as it keeps your head above water and allows you to breath. It is just big enough to hold your upper body out of the water but you are still cold, wet and exhausted. Resting on the log gives you a moment to reflect on your life before you went over the falls, and you find yourself longing for your boat and the comfort it brought you.
But your grip on the log is weak and you slide off, only to slam into a rock seconds later. You are caught between the rock and the strong current of the river and the pressure is unbearable. You realize you need to keep moving. You can’t stay where you are. You know what you need to do but you lack the energy and the desire to follow through.
Washed up and exhausted
Somehow you are swept off the rock and eventually you notice the shore. You do not have the energy to swim to the shore, but you see it. You have no idea how, but you end up washed on the shore. You lay there, worn out and drenched. Eventually you get up and start walking. You grab some wood for a fire and start thinking about gathering supplies for a new boat. This whole journey has been exhausting and your energy is low. The next steps are going to take time and you need to rebuild your energy before you do anything else.
Do you recognize these events and feelings from your own process of grief? Who or what was the log that gave you some relief? Where did you feel stuck and what helped you get moving again? When do you feel like you reached the shore? How did you rebuild your energy for the journey ahead?