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The grieving process

The grieving process
The grieving process
Dr. Wayne Willis

A Dear Annie advice column printed a short speech from a woman who had attended some grief classes. At the last class, she spoke up for the first time: “Profound grief of a spouse is like accidentally and significantly cutting your arm. It hurts really bad and seems that you may never stop the bleeding. But you do. Not too long after, you bump the wound and the scab comes off. It bleeds and hurts for a long time and then begins to heal again. This process repeats itself over and over for a long time. One day, you look at your arm and see a tender scar that will be part of you for the rest of your life. The scar is there, but it doesn’t hurt like when it was a new wound, and the bleeding has stopped.”

No analogy is perfect, and some would say that, instead of a deep cut, the comparison to losing a dearly-loved one would be the arm’s amputation. Nevertheless, the main point is obvious. Healing of a great loss is never speedy, simple or complete. Things will always be different; some days worse, some days better. On even the best days, though, a permanent wound to the heart abides.

In biblical times, grieving Jews cast dust into the air or rolled around in dust and ashes to broadcast, “I am wretched!” They might wear sack cloth, a coarse jacket made of goat’s hair, to externalize their anguish. Ever since the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, faithful Jews in hard times have made their way to what remains of the Western (“Wailing”) Wall to protest and mourn.

It’s good for us to get the grief over what we’ve lost off our chest. The best way out, sages say, is usually through.