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Grief: We push a lot of buttons

He stood in the doorway of my office and asked the simple but difficult question that I hear too often, “If I cry and let all my feelings out, will it speed up the grief process?”  I hesitated only for a moment before responding, knowing that he was not going to like the answer.  Here is what I told him: “If only it were that simple my friend.  I mean, if we had the opportunity to push a button and speed it up, would there even be such a thing as grieving?”  And, if given the choice, wouldn’t we all be pressing that button?”

In his eyes, I knew that he was expecting this answer before it even left my mouth, but his heart was hopeful that there would be another solution.  He hung his head forlornly and simply stated, “I just don’t know how to do this.”  For me, that was the most valid and normal response he could have possibly given, and I told him that he is not alone.  In fact, I even mentioned that countless others had voiced similar feelings to me and that each and every time my response was the same because I am a truth teller.  As much as it hurts, I am not one to sugarcoat anything and I think it is only fair to be upfront and honest with those who are experiencing pain and loss, to let them know some of what to expect and to walk beside them as things change constantly while others remain the same.

Sometimes I do mention another button, one that is far different from the “fast forward.”  I talk to them about practicing “the pause.”  When they are grieving, there is so much that is overwhelming and there are moments where we feel pressured to make instantaneous decisions that perhaps we are not ready or prepared to make at that time.  I gently encourage them to press that pause button and take some time to gather their thoughts or to make sure they are in the right frame of mind to be making a final commitment to something they might regret making at a later date and time.  You see, that is some of the trickery that grief takes part in- it assures you that you are ready or are thinking rationally, and then one day later you wake up and panic, questioning how in the world you made that particular decision and berating yourself because now it is too late to take it back.

The one button that does receive the most attention while grieving is the “rewind” button.  For some reason, we force ourselves to go back over every last moment and detail.  Our minds become fixated on a particular event or a picture that either causes us anguish or comfort, and just when it starts to play out, we hit the rewind button and play it back all over again.  People ask me all the time why do we do this?  Why do we punish ourselves?  And I let them know that it is a part of our healing, that the “replaying” of every moment, whether it hurts or not, brings about clarity and resolution to the questions that linger and plays havoc with our minds.  We do this not to create pain, but to ease it and to provide that elusive salve that we so desperately need.

So, whatever the button- Stop, fast-forward, rewind or pause, the only one worth noting at this time is “play.”  Why?  Because grief stops for no one and it is a part of life that eventually we must all face.