With Your Face to the Wind
By Pat Schwiebert, R.N.
There are times in your grief where you can do nothing but brace yourself against the storm of pain and bitterness. You have just enough energy to survive the day and no more. And then finally, as the storm begins to be more predictable or you’ve released yourself from the fear that it will consume you, you turn and face yourself into the wind. You feel energized rather than depleted by the challenge that this tragedy has brought to your life. Morning has been all night in coming, but surely it comes.
There is a strength that comes from accepting what has happened in your life and responding to it. And it’s an act of courage to go headlong into grief, where you can see what’s coming toward you and say “yes” to it. Saying “yes” does not necessarily imply that you like what you see or what you get. You didn’t choose for your life to be disrupted this way. But your saying “yes” to the experience depletes the negative power that would otherwise exert itself over you.
You have learned that no matter what you do, you cannot change what has happened.
It would have been easy to get stuck in the “ain’t-it-awful” pit. No one would blame you. It would be easy to become cynical and say, “Sure, I learned a lot: not to expect anything, not to trust anyone, not to care.” The choice is always yours. You can choose to become an angry and bitter person, or you can open yourself to all of your life, learning and growing from all of your experiences.
To cope with the death of a loved one, you will probably need to summon inner resources that you’ve never had to call on before. But they are there when you need them, inactive when you didn’t need them, available now to help you through.
When you move from asking the “why” questions to asking the “how” questions, you have turned the corner and reclaimed your life. You are no longer a helpless victim searching for a reason “why” this terrible thing happened. You are now motivated to discover “how” you can cope with the situation.
How can you help yourself feel better? How can you keep the memory of your loved one in a healthy perspective? How will you tell the story?
This has been a hard-won education. The new insights you have gained may not have been welcome early in the mourning process and perhaps can only be absorbed after you have some distance from the intense anguish of grief.
Whenever there are shadows in front of us, it’s because we have our back to the light. When we turn and face the light, the shadows will go away.