Grief walks among us

At any moment it can happen. Like a power outage it can leave a person helpless and alone in the dark. Along the way there are bumps, wrong turns and moments of complete exhaustion. Like a scar it embeds into who you are and will never heal.

Grief, for many, changes our emotions, relationships and lifestyles heavily. There are days when pain stings immensely, moments when we want to be alone and times when people just don’t get it. We all experience grief but on what magnitude?

Grief has many forms but is often unseen and misinterpreted. The truth is that everyone carries grief. For some it may persist, for others it’s momentary, but in the end it never truly leaves.
Overlooked, the grief walks among us. Sometimes we may not have a clue where it is, but in reality it is with us and separate from us at the same time. Anywhere you are, people may be disguising their grief. Don’t assume that because they’re not teary-eyed or having a mental breakdown that they’re not experiencing grief. One cannot sit and cry forever. Society demands us to put on a smile and pretend our lives are perfect, even when they may not be.

What’s upsetting is the misconception that so many people live in a white picket-fence world. We make judgments and form generalizations that everyone lives the same way we do.

Many fail to read between the lines of everyday emotions. A sense of understanding may be there, but a mere idea of what grief is like is far from the experience. So is it only possible to truly understand grief after having experienced it firsthand? I don’t have the answer, but I never imagined what it was like, until it happened to me.
May 1 during finals week I lost my father. It was a normal day, the cool spring air lingering and the hopes to finish out the year strong resting on a couple exams and papers. Overwhelmed and in shock, the tears didn’t fall immediately. Reality hadn’t sunken in yet, and my whole world seemed to be slowing falling apart.

It didn’t really hit me until I saw the casket, where my father lay still, emotionless and unresponsive. I was the one who was lost, afraid and completely in the dark. The whole dynamic of the house had shifted. The atmosphere was cold, sleep was scarce and the hall echoed faint cries behind closed doors. No one had an appetite, not even the dog, who sat by door waiting for my father to walk in.
Throughout the summer, I learned that life goes on and that continuing to pursue my dreams and passions is what my father would want and encourage. The challenge, however, was dealing with people’s insensitivity towards the subject and lack of understanding.

Few realized that a simple photo, scent, look-a-alike or song could trigger a lapse in emotion and completely alter my mood. One may never know what will trigger a memory and pull them back to the moment that ripped their life apart. Grief, however, isn’t only caused by death. It can also be generated by a natural disaster, loss of job, breakup, divorce, and so on.

The stages of grief are common to go through in any circumstance but not necessarily in the order listed in the Kübler Ross model. From day to day one can jump all over within minutes.

There is no exact process in which grief occurs and not one method in which one grieves. Every person grieves differently, and it’s important to realize that. Don’t assume their way isn’t healthy, and find the balance between being there for them and giving them their space. You can’t take their pain away, but it means the world to know a person is there and cares.
Life After Loss: A Student Panel of Cobbers with diverse experiences focused around death are presenting this Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. The mission of the panel is to create understanding among members of the community about loss and the process of grief and recovery. This panel hopes to initiate dialogue and raise awareness about a shared community experience in order to sustain individual and community well being. Speakers are Courtney Backen, who lost her mom and dad; Alex Elizárraga, Mother; myself (Kelly Knutson), Father; and Erin Thompson, Grandfather. Please join us Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. in Brown Hall Unit 1 lounge to hear our stories, struggles and road to recovery.

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