Throughout our school years we study to give the right answers during exams, to elevate our marks and move on to the next grade. Teachers ask and we answer, but when it comes to life skills the questions get tougher and the answers are not as easy as remembering a set of facts. Why doesn’t she like me? What will I wear for Halloween? Why didn’t Daddy come home?
The other day I wanted to bake some apple pie and asked my preschooler: “How many apples are there in the basket?”
He gave the basket one look and answered without second thought: “Many, Mommy.”
Was that the answer I was looking for? Certainly not, but the answer wasn’t wrong either. There were many apples in the basket.
He then asked me: “Are all the apples green?”
I said: “They are, do you think you can count how many apples we have?”
He took out one of the apples that turned brown and showed it to me.
“Why is there only one rotten apple in the basket?” he asked in a manner that, on a different day I might have taken personally - the apple pie was long overdue. “Maybe this one has been sitting in the basket for too long sweetheart. Can you please sort out the apples that are still green and let’s make a pie for dessert tonight.”
What I learned from this apple pie venture is that we have to see the question for what it is. If we leave our questions unanswered for too long, they will start to turn the other apples in our basket from green to brown.
Now let us take a few examples of questions often asked whilst grieving.
How long does the grieving process last?
Suffering and grief is not a competition
How do we see this question for what it is? I always find it interesting when a group of people get together and discuss their problems. One common answer to their own suffering is the phrase that it could always be worse. The underlying principle is to be thankful for what you do have, however this is easily adapted to somehow make your suffering feel less important or intense than someone else’s.
Just because I bumped my toe and you have a broken hand doesn’t mean that my toe hurts less because your hand hurts more. The same goes for grief. Because our grief is so personal in nature, the length of time we take to grieve is not a race, it is a process. Your grief might last significantly shorter than another person’s even if you grieve the same circumstance. You might have less questions and are able to accept the gift of the loss and what it means to you faster. Or you might take much longer to grieve. By answering the questions that YOU have, will, in part, determine how long the grieving process last.
Is there an end to grief?
When you know the starting point of your grief you can deal with the ending on a conscious level.
Let’s look at the heart of the question to find the answer.
The end is questioned, but not the starting/trigger point that could have happened before or during the actual occurrence of loss. If you want to bake the apple pie you have to go back to the basket with apples and start peeling them.
When did your grief begin?
Where are you in this given moment?
Do you keep track of the miles already behind you on the road of recovery?
Your grief started somewhere. When unsure about where that started, Journaling Through can help you to find the source.
How long can we endure the pain of grief?
Grief is a motion that puts the endurer to a test by causing discomfort.
Back to the paradigm of the apple pie, there is often one rotten apple in the basket, but that one bad apple doesn’t have to spoil the whole barrel, unless of course you leaves it there.
Going back and forth through phases of physical and emotional pain is a natural phenomena at first. In time, the pain does get less intense. The more healthy apples you take from the basket the fuller your baking dish gets.
The “all encompassing” reference in the question holds the answer. You have to wholeheartedly be willing to go through the pain with the sincere motivation to be healed.
When will I know that my grief has passed?
The fact that you want to know indicates that you are eager to learn the answer. You want to have reassurance that you’re on the right path, not asking for a feeling or a jubilation, but grief itself evokes a specific feeling and the word passed indicates something lies behind.
When you find moments that your body, soul and mind are fully harmonized. What once was a trigger is now a recognition, once emotionally too overwhelming is now at peace.
That is the end of grief, like a perfectly baked pie after all the peeling, coring, mixing, baking and labouring in front of the hot oven is complete.
Can I find answers in guided journaling about loss?
To find answers you must bring your questions and trust that you will be expertly guided in many ways to get you through this heartfelt journey.