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Going Backwards to Go Forward

By Katrina Cauble, LPC

...grief is a balance between engaging in life and being still and reflective.

This fall I was able to go to a training for grief by Alan Wolfelt where there were many things that were eye opening and thought provoking. He spoke on several points from his book “The Paradoxes of Mourning.” The one concept he talked about that made so much sense to me was the concept that you have to go backwards before you can go forward in grief. This is something I witness daily and also experienced with my own grief journey. So what does this mean- to go backwards?

The body gives us physical signs in grief to slow down and be reflective. One myth Dr. Wolfelt speaks of is the concept of “just stay busy.” Does staying busy push grief away to not be dealt with? The season of winter is a great reflection of how nature slows downs and stays still. In grief, winter can be the season for us to do the same. Most people I witness experience fatigue with grief, especially when it is more acute or intense. This is the body trying to tell us to be still and rest, and this may look very different than “just stay busy.”

One thing I like to stress is that grief is a balance between engaging in life and being still and reflective. If one is busy, busy, busy, it does not give time to do natural grief work. The risk can be that the grief will build to a level that one day it just explodes like a volcano. The other side is if one is too still, they may neglect self-care and the necessary activities of societal functioning like paying the bills, buying groceries, cleaning house and other basic activities of life. This leads to the built-up stress of neglecting what is needed to survive and then finding oneself in a bind. So, the balance of grief and life can be different every day as one tries to walk the tightrope of grief.

So much of grief is thinking of your loved one and the memories of the past. It is rare to see someone who is grieving intensely be able to concentrate on a book or always remember just why they came into a room. This is going backwards when you are grieving. I have had more than one person describe just sitting still and not even focusing on the television. Crying and even just being numb may take a lot of energy; and when it is winter it may even cause you to want to hibernate like a bear. Taking a day or even just a couple of hours just doing this may be what is needed.

It is said that grief is the dark season of the soul. This is a still place that needs to be tended, just the same as the bills and caring for oneself. You may think about the balance of the two- grief and rebuilding life- and reflect on what you have done for both and/or what is your body saying?

Fortunately, even though the journey of grief can be very overwhelming, you don’t have to do this alone. Just as we have walked with others, our HPCCR grief counselors are here to help journey with you through the winter of the soul. You don’t have to do this alone.


For more information about HPCCR grief care services or to schedule a call from a grief counselor, please contact Deborah McGregor at 704.335.4300.

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