You Can't Skip Out On Grief
A river of boiling lava, the one that recently took my home on the Big Island, continues to flow vigorously from Fissure 8, traveling a full 7 miles to its current ocean entry. Periodically, the burning river overflows its 50-75 feet high banks, covering more land, decimating beautiful coastal recreational areas, and taking more homes.
We sit at the 3-month mark with this eruption. Over that time, I’ve gone through many different emotional phases. I’ve felt heartbroken by the enormity of the loss, which has touched thousands of individuals and scattered my community far and wide. More than 700 homes have been consumed by fire and lava as well as treasured swimming, snorkeling, and surfing spots that held a lifetime of memories.
At times, I could let go, accept impermanence as a natural part of life, and bow to the magnificence of nature. Still, the constant uncertainty wore on me — I think it sinks into your bones on a primal level.
I hoped my home wouldn’t be taken. The lava sat at the very bottom of my 5-acre lot for almost a month. In the meantime, I plotted with my neighbors about how we could return once the lava calmed down. None of us believed the lava would climb uphill and destroy our remaining kipuka (island).
Still, I felt relieved when the heat of encroaching lava finally burned down my house and trees and covered the land in a blanket of black riddled with flecks of hot orange. Finally, that phase of uncertainty had come to an end.
The full force of this immense loss, compounded by other recent losses, didn’t hit me fully until a few weeks later. Then it shattered me. All these unexpected changes forcefully mixed together to give rise to anger, which alternated with an inconsolable sadness marked by uncontrollable tears. The intensity overwhelmed me for a at least two weeks.
Which brings me to now. Just a day ago, I woke up to find all the upsetting emotions had vanished. I felt light, even joyful.
I don’t expect those cheery feelings to last forever, emotions always change. I also know that grief rarely finishes for good suddenly like that. It will likely poke up its head many times more.
Unless you repress your emotions, grief will have it’s way. When you experience a serious loss, expect to cycle through some or all these emotions until you reach acceptance: denial, anger, sadness, bargaining, depression, and any other emotion under the sun. For example, you might feel envious or resentful because someone else's situation is better than yours. And, you may have moments of acceptance and then cycle back through various strong emotions once again.
Don’t assume you’ll go through neat, sequential stages of grief. You might bounce from one emotion to another faster than a ping pong ball. Or you may feel submerged in one type of emotional morass for days or weeks at a time.
You probably won’t want to feel the pain. I didn't. At times, I longed for the grief to be over once and for all. But I know resistance like this just creates more frustration rather than relief.
I’ve learned grief is what inevitably happens when you lose something important to you. You can’t skip out on grief, you can only move through it with as much self-awareness and courage as you can muster. If you suppress grief and all its associated emotions, you’ll only delay the healing process, see your feelings explode later, or live a life where your heart is mostly turned off.
Don’t despair, grief won’t last forever. But you need to honor your grief, give it your time and attention, until it gradually loses its strength.
You don’t have to process grief on your own. Reach out to others who will support you in your pain. I gained so much by participating in a grief circle, where we cried, laughed, and consoled one another.
Here are some of the tools that continue to help me navigate this challenging time of grief upon grief:
I don’t know when I’ll start writing regularly on Always Well Within again. Between the grief, need for heightened self-care, and the demands of an insurance claim, there hasn’t been time. But my mind brims with ideas for new articles I want to write for you. Please stay tuned!
If you're in the throes of loss, my heart is with you. Please share your own insights in the comments below so we can help one another heal.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for Wild Arisings, my twice monthly letters from the heart filled with insights, inspiration, and ideas to help you connect with and live from your truest self. And if you would like to support Always Well Within, buy my Living with Ease course or visit my Self-Care Shop. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra