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Navigating the Waves of Grief

She said, “Grief is the loss of love.”

And my mind went back. To the doctor’s office where we found out. To an ultrasound photo tucked away in a box of memories. Memories — because that’s all we’ll have.

It took me back. Back to Nashville and country music. To birthday parties and road trips through the hills.

Back to puppy snores and a crooked tail.

Every now and then, the waves come back and hit harder than normal. The hurt. The loss. And I know that even though some days the waves are so calm I can barely feel them, it doesn’t mean I can stop them from crashing in.


I met with Emily because she recently became a certified Death Doula, and I was interested to learn more about what that means. We often hear the term “Doula” and immediately think of the doula that helps bring babies to earthside. But Death Doula was a new concept to me.

Simply put, a Death Doula can help someone who is going through death or dying, or someone who is processing the loss of a loved one. This can include making them feel comfortable through physical touch and adjustments, emotional support, spiritual support, helping the family with after-death arrangements, and other forms of support.

The reality is we don’t talk about death, dying, or grief often. We worry it makes others uncomfortable or sad. We don’t openly talk about it because perhaps we don’t feel like we can.

Emily creates a safe space to talk through and navigate grief, death and dying. Everyone processes grief differently, and it’s not the same five-step process. Having someone that can help in ways that cater to you and your needs is important. That is exactly how Emily is helping others.


She explained grief like this:

“You have this box. In the box is a ball. Some days when you wake up in the morning, your box has a ball the size of a tennis ball. Some days your box has a ball the size of a basketball. You observe it, and know that – ‘Okay, today is a basketball day’. I’m going to feel things heavier today.”

Small waves and big waves. A constant gravitational pull that is unavoidable. So we acknowledge. Prepare. Accept. And know that this day will be harder than others.


Emily lost her Mom 10 years ago to ovarian cancer. She was at a pivotal time in her life. She was in college, navigating her early twenties, and figuring out who she wanted to be and what she wanted to do in life.

Losing her mom made it that much harder to figure life out. She did not know how to process grief, or what she should be feeling. She fell further from herself, losing her way.

At one point, she had convinced herself that she had grieved and everything was fine. But instead, she had only disconnected from her mind and body.

She had not even begun to heal.


“There was a pivotal moment when I learned I didn’t have to ‘get over’ grief. That I could coexist with it. Not only that, but that I could continue a relationship with my Mom even after she was gone.”, Emily explained.

Emily continues her relationship with her Mom by writing her letters. Moments where her Mom isn’t there to give her support, she writes to her about it. It’s given her a way to bring her Mom back into her life without her physically being here. It gives her a way to coexist.

I hold the stick in my hand, staring intently. Waiting for another line to appear. Please, please, be positive. My leg bounces up and down, nervous energy, heart racing. I don’t look at it for a moment. A short moment.

I look again. I hold it in the light. I hold it in a different light. I turn it upside down. I throw it in the trash.

I take it out of the trash.

Negative. Nothing.

A wave of sadness comes over me, and realize that every time I take a test, I want it to solve my grief. I want it to fill a void. I want it all to go away and come back all at once. I want it to erase the slate clean. I want to start over. Fresh. New. Happy. Free.

Then my voice of reason comes in. The wise one that I often forget to listen to. It says, “Everything that happens within the future does not change the past.”

A new chapter in the story will not erase the pain of the others before it. I am always going to feel that loss. It’s going to be a part of me. And that’s okay.


After talking with Emily, I came home feeling lighter. I had not realized how much I had been holding back. We shared our stories, we connected, we listened, and we took time to understand.

She gave me ways to coexist with grief, and she explained them in metaphors that make sense.

Most importantly – she made me feel like whatever I was feeling was completely okay to feel. She made me feel like I didn’t need to force myself to ‘get over’ anything.

A Death Doula was a new concept to me before I met with Emily, but afterward, I realized how important it really is. Greif, death, and dying are often uncharted waters where we have no idea where to go or how to weather the storm. The waves crash in and we feel so overwhelmed that we try to shut them out, without ever acknowledging that the waves are okay. They are natural. We can’t ever stop them, but we can learn to cope. If you’re interested in learning more about Emily, visit her Instagram @awild_moonchild.

 

Michigan

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©2019 by Ness Glennie