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The Journey Known as Grief

Updated on September 20, 2012

Without Any Warning ...... The Journey Begins

Recently I was cleaning up some computer files and came across a letter I sent to some cousins a few years back. Their mother had just unexpectedly passed away and the letter was my way of perhaps bringing some comfort as they traveled this strange, unknown journey … the Journey known as Grief. Both my parents had passed away over the preceding seven years. After reading this letter, it occurred to me perhaps some of my advice to my cousins could be of use to others. After all, isn’t experience the best coach in this so called “game of life” we’re participating in.

Our Mom’s were sister-in-laws and different in many ways. But, our Mom’s were similar in the ways that are most important to a family. They were strong, hospitable, gracious women … and the glue that held their families together. They were always available and supportive, even when their kids messed up. Between the two women there’s ten offspring, so someone was almost always in some type of situation. Both women also had another vital similarity; at the core of why we are the type of people we are today is the countless hours of prayer that’s been offered over our life spans. And you know…my Mom always said, the prayers of a faithful Mother are always honored…even after she’s gone home!

That Urgent Dealing With The Crisis Mode

Both of my parents’ homegoing were sudden and unexpected. When death happens suddenly like that, we have to switch into an … ‘urgent, dealing with the crisis’ ... mode. When the shock wears off and you wind down from the crisis mode … the grief really starts. I know neither of my parents wanted to linger with a long, slow dying. It’s how most of us want to leave this world, isn’t it? It’s been a long time prayer of mine, that my loved ones have a speedy departure from this life. My brother summed up Mother’s leaving like this, “Well, she had a lead foot and drove fast, it was only fitting that she leave this world … fast”. And she certainly did. She would have had a good laugh at that remark.

In both my cousins case and in mine, our Dads had suddenly, without any warning, become widowers. Both husbands had been with their wives for more than fifty years. My siblings and all the grandchildren were always concerned with Daddy. He was fifteen years older than Mother and had become quite fragile. It was four years before he left us and I believe he was just waiting for his time. And as much as you try and fathom what they were going through, there really was no way to comprehend where they were. It was a tough place to be in for us kids. Handling our own grief, trying to be strong for our children and at the same time being strong for Daddy. About the only thing you really can do is … be there for him. And we were and so are my cousins still.

Everyone Progresses On Their Journey At Different Speeds

No two people handle their journey of grief in the same way. You can read about the process and the different phases and that’s really a good thing to do. An easy read my sister discovered is “The Grief Recovery Handbook” by John James and Russell Friedman. It’s not too clinical and written in a way that anyone can relate to. It’s still in print and I recommend it often to people just starting out on their journey.

There are different phases of grief. However, not everyone reaches each level in the same order or in the same time frame, nor do they handle that particular phase in the same way. And, you know, that’s ok, for this is your journey. Don’t get stuck on trying to follow some kind of guide.

Long Talks, Helping Others Deal, Staying Busy

When the grief journey begins, some people withdraw while some drench themselves in activity. I was one who withdraw for a couple of weeks and then jumped into lots of things.

I started to not go on a long time planned clown ministry training trip to Atlanta. It was only about 2-3 weeks after Mother died in August and a trip just seemed sort of disrespectful. However, friends and family convinced me to go. It was a very healing time and I am so thankful I went. Four great friends with listening hearts was what I needed at just that time. The long eight hours drive was very therapeutic. As was all the laughter I experienced while there for four days.

Then, during that first holiday season, which is always the worst time after losing a loved one, especially when that loved one embraced the holidays so, as my Mother did, I hosted three parties and helped friends with some too. All this activity helped me to keep from dwelling on her not being there and all the preliminary things that lead up to the actual day.

Staying busy, helping others deal with their grief, long talks with siblings and leaning on a supportive group of friends, were all part of the healing and recovery of my journey of grief.

Siblings Can Grow Closer

You may also become aware, that you’re perhaps, closer to your siblings. My sister and I had never been really close, until Mother left us. We noticed we were together more often and talked on the phone more. We were both on the same type of journey and we needed each other. We had something in common we had never had before. When you’re on this journey, like never before you need your siblings and other family too of course. You have in common this big thing of your Parent’s death to deal with and will need each other in ways you’ve not experienced, before this journey began. Be patient with each other and don’t be afraid to share your feelings and your hurts. My heart always goes out to someone who is an only child when they are on this journey. I can’t imagine, nor do I want to, what my journey would have been without my brothers and sister.

The Road Gets Smoother - Finally !

While you’re on this journey of grief and handling it in your own way, you’ll realize, all of sudden one day, that things are getting easier. The road is smoothing out and the curves are not nearly as sharp. You no longer feel numb or drained emotionally and physically frazzled ... all the time. You will notice it’s easier to make decisions and be a partaker in things you had put aside, while on your journey. Things... life that is … finally starts to be more like it was, before, this journey began.

Hold Fast and Don't Let Go!

Just like a roadmap is needed on a trip, the most important element you need on this journey, is the power of a loving, heavenly Father. You can tap into that power for whatever your needs might be. I don’t know how anyone can complete a journey, such as grief is, without letting God be the guide and navigator. Not the co-pilot, but the one leading the way. He will pick you up, wrap you in His arms and shelter you from attacks of all sorts. Be sure and lean on Him! You will need to rest often in His warmth and protection. Hold fast to that fact and never, never let go.



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    • PaisleeGal profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Materna 

      6 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA


      Thanks for taking the time to read my story. My thoughts are with you. I have friends in the same situation as you are in. Take care and just take one day at a time.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I am just beginning my journey of grief! My mother-in-law passed away a year ago. Her husband is still living but is gradually loosing his abilities. My own father is in the same boat. I was able to spend some quality time with his about a week ago. We both just sat and cried together! I am grateful for that time, as he lives far away and I don't know if and when I will see him again. My mother is still pretty healthy, but like you said, we never know when their time will come. We thought my father-in-law would be the first one to go, but that was not the case. Thanks for the practical advice!

    • PaisleeGal profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Materna 

      8 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      Thanks Wilderness for stopping by today! Your right we always do miss them. Can't imagine going through those times without my circle of support.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      8 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      It's been over a decade since Dad left us, and I still miss him, too. The terrible hurt and feeling of loss as subsided, but I will always miss him.

      Family is so important during those first few months, just as you say. Without mine, both wife and kids as well as siblings, it would have been much, much harder - even though we are suffering the same grief we can still lean on each other for support.

    • PaisleeGal profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Materna 

      8 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      Christy... I do understand what you mean .. And sometimes something will happen and it seems like they are still with us .. even after 10 yrs for Mother and 6 for Daddy .. I still miss them .. Thanks for you reading my story and posting your comments.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Reading this got me to thinking about my dad. There's not a day goes by where I don't see something or hear something and think dad would like that. Of course I think about Aunt Patsy a lot too. I do miss all my loved ones past but I know I will see them again :)


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