When I was a child, I couldn’t wait to be tall enough to ride on the rollercoasters at Euclid Beach, Geauga Lake and Cedar Point. After years of anticipation, I finally reached that 48″ mark and stood in line to ride the infamous Blue Streak. Turns out I hated it, not much of a rollercoaster fan.
Have you ever said “I feel like I am on an emotional rollercoaster” in dealing with your grief? What a perfect parallel. At the beginning of our grief journey, we can experience disbelief and shock, we may feel numb and disconnected from others. The details of the funeral and burial consume all of our attention and energy, we may not have the time or will to even think about how or when we will grieve.
A month or so following the burial, meals may stop coming, phone calls from friends and family lessen, the thank you notes have been sent and we have a moment to catch our breath, to feel, to think. The months following may be filled with profound sadness, isolation; it may be setting in that your loved one has died. The first hill on the rollercoaster, it always seems to be the biggest, and we seldom know what to expect.
During the first year of grief we have to get through all the firsts: birthday, anniversary, and major holidays. Ah…the part of the rollercoaster ride that has constant ups and downs with very little time to prepare for the next hill. The drops may not be as extreme as that first hill but they are still difficult to get through.
Many bereavement/grief specialists are now finding that the most difficult period of grief is from 12-16 months. There is a finality to the death of your loved one. Many rollercoasters have a loop or corkscrew near the end of the ride. Your world has been turned upside down and you have to learn to deal and live with it.
Now if you could imagine for a moment that Jesus is buckled in beside you on this crazy ride. He has his arms around you, embracing you, protecting you. He is taking this rollercoaster ride with you. He never leaves your side. He is the one constant during an unpredictable time. Hold onto him.
Nancy Romaine, LSW, MPA
Catholic Cemeteries Association