Imagine a pot on the stove, full of water, set at high heat. It will boil. It’s inevitable. When it spills over, the immediate surroundings are impacted. The surface of the stove gets wet. The burners sizzle as it repels the water splashing down on its hot coils.
Now imagine that is full of the awful ingredients that are simply part of experiencing grief: pain, loss loneliness, fear.
If our pot is full of grief, it’s going to boil over. It will splash on our surroundings. It will cause a sizzle as its heat burns those around us. They/we want to pour in some love and encouragement in, but it’s too hot. The pot is boiling so hard, no one can’t get near it without enduring the heat. That heat can burn. Maybe even leave scars.
This is why it is so important to be aware of our grief, where we are at emotionally in handling the grief.
The grief I presently feel is like none I’ve ever known. I can be overwhelmed by my feelings, I know this already. However, I’ve never experienced grief so deep that it was physical. The kind that won’t let you catch your breath, that takes your strength, weakens your knees and can be felt as a hard thump-thump as your heart races, pounding so hard you see it beat through your chest.
Grief can make us all a little crazy, or feel a little crazy, but generally distance makes this more manageable. However, sometimes, grief can actually catapult us into patterns of behavior of acting in ways that any rational being would deem as crazy.
“There is a dimension of grief called the ‘going crazy’ syndrome. It’s like being in the middle of a wild, rushing river where you can’t get a grasp on anything. Disconnected thoughts race through your mind, and strong emotions may be overwhelming.“ Center for Grieving and Loss
There are people who can more easily detach their feelings and actions than this gal. I am an emotional being, a feeler. I feel everything. I hurt when you hurt. My heartbreaks when yours breaks. I won’t try to fix you, but I’ll do everything I can to share your load.
As I’m sitting smack in the middle of a season of very painful losses, I am aware that I want to help so much in great part because I don’t want to weather seasons like this alone. It’s hard. And I never want someone I care for to experience that awful hollow feeling in the stomach that is equated with feelings of loneliness when grief is ever present.
Grief Piles Up
There are other dimensions that can make all the above even more complex. I’ve been desperately trying to understand my actions lately. If I’m gonna hurt like this, I’m gonna learn from it and not waste this pain. While there are so many things that can make grief even more complicated, for me I’m starting to grasp what is called Loss Overload.
When someone we love dies, it is always difficult. But when we experience several significant losses within a relatively short period of time, we are at risk for loss overload. Loss overload means that even if we have generally grieved and mourned in healthy ways and were always self-sufficient, now too many losses have accumulated for us to grieve and mourn them all at once. We become overwhelmed and may experience anxiety, panic, depression, and other symptoms that make it hard for us to function. We’ve just added more ingredients to the pot. It’s getting hot in here, right?
You see, loss often begets feelings of loss. So when we go through a loss we may (and often do) feel a deep need to grab onto other things in our life for fear of losing those too. It could be an object, or maybe even other people.
I’m learning even when we aren’t alone we can still experience deep feelings of loneliness. I can’t keep someone from experiencing pain, loss, loneliness, pain, grief and no one can stop their mighty forces from being experienced in my life. The only way to do it is go through it, as painful as it might be.
Remember the ingredients in our little grief pot? You ever try hold onto someone because of fear? I’m guessing that didn’t end well for you. It probably didn’t look like a “nailed-it” moment. When we act in fear, it can and will do great damage to otherwise good relationships.
Expect to be overwhelmed by grief at the most awkward and unexpected times. Have a plan for overcoming setbacks in the grieving process.
Grief Must Be Suffered
It’s not uncommon for us to turn away from pain. We try to delay our grief until we can “handle” it. This likely is in the denial stages of grief. However, and make no mistake about it, delaying grief does not make it go away. Maybe you can’t even see it as it quietly waits to be suffered.
The losses have been so many and so close together, I couldn’t stop to let grief in. Until last week, I boiled over. I spun out so hard, I have no choice but to stop and access where I am. If I don’t, the collateral damage will cause the pot to burn to empty and burn the house down.
Alas, damage was done. It has created even more pain. I pray it can be worked through, but accept that might just not be possible.
Grief Can Turn to Beauty
If you are experiencing the gravity of grief that is compounding and you’re spinning, give yourself some grace.
Please know that your present emotional turmoil doesn’t define you. Do not let others or yourself reduce you to a moment in time. Allowing these moments to define who you are will actually cause you more distress. Give yourself some grace.
If you love someone in this stage, you are not a punching bag. You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. I encourage you to give as much as grace as you can even when grief turns your loved one into a one-eyed monster.
Your love one needs you more than ever. Inevitably, your season will come, because pain is universal, a for through which all of us wall through. Be the grace you need in the future.
If you can weather the storm with them, you can be part of the solution in helping them survive the season. They honestly feel they won’t survive the season unless they know your care and support is present. Hold off making life altering decisions until y’all are standing on steadier ground. If they are willing to work at healthy, walk with them.
There is a beauty in brokenness when relationships survive.