Although I would say I am a resilient and hopeful person by nature, there have been times in my life when grief has overwhelmed me. As the ‘strong one’ my pain is often invisible to those around me. Strong is the mask I wear. Be Strong is one of the myths of healing through grief.
Grief is an emotional response to loss. It is normal and natural. Things become complicated when our grief overwhelms us to the point of feeling powerless; helpless to find a way forward. This feeling of powerlessness can make a person feel very vulnerable – a bird with a broken wing.
This loss of control over personal circumstances produces a sense that life things are bound to stay the same. I think of it like swimming against a strong current. Even though you may be an experienced swimmer, there are times when the circumstances surrounding you feel overwhelming.
Imagine you are swimming through life. You have experienced strong currents and/or undertows before and have managed to keep going. But this time feels different. You feel as if you are drowning. This is when some people will call out for help. They will talk to a friend, see their doctor, see a counsellor all in an effort to keep going. Some will need to tread water for a time to gather the strength they need to keep going. For some, the current comes on too fast or they are treading water too long. They begin to feel helpless. Helplessness is a dangerous place to be. It can rob people of the hope they need to save their own life.
This place of hopelessness is something I think about a lot. The very first counselling course I took when I began my studies was in grief. I knew this was a calling. Life is loss. I have had my fair share. I have not experienced intense feelings of hopelessness myself, but I have felt it each time I lose someone through suicide. I feel their hopelessness. Those of us left behind struggle to understand all the ‘whys’. Most of all: why didn’t he/she reach out? Even if we ourselves have contemplated letting go of our life, we have not completed that thought, which may make it difficult to understand those who did complete.
The way I wrap my head around such a tremendous loss is to think that in the end the person I have lost must have found hope. Hope that the pain would end. Hope that there was a solution. But oh…how I wish they had found their hope in me or someone else who loved them so dearly. If only their hope could have come from our love, our friendship, our understanding.
For those of us who are still swimming, we must find hope in our own life. Hope that we can continue on; hope that we can learn our whole life over again without the person we have lost; hope that we will once again find joy in life through loving ourselves and one another.
For those who are struggling, reach out. You are loved.