Let’s learn how to process grief. It could be started by creating metaphors for grief. We will begin with a trio of comparisons. Here is one: grief is a collapsing house of cards. A second one could be: grief is riding a wild horse. Now, here is a third one: grief is wallowing in a mud puddle with a pig.
Perhaps you may identify with one of these metaphors. Grief could occur from losing a loved one, or from hearing an unwelcome medical diagnosis, or from any sort of loss that we as humans may experience.
How to Process with Three Grief Metaphors
First of all, let’s take the house of cards metaphor: grief is a collapsing house of cards. I actually saw this in my mind’s eye when our son was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The cards comparison implies a fragile and unstable situation. Hearing his diagnosis certainly felt that way. It suddenly felt as if my 3-D life was now a mere 2-D, flat existence with the possibility of losing our son.
Secondly, grief is riding a wild horse. The horse has no name and knows no commands. One is on this dangerous ride with no safe way out. The choices seem to be to hang onto the mane for dear life or to jump off. Neither way seems safe.
Thirdly, grief is wallowing in a mud puddle with a pig. There is probably nothing so messy and slippery as wrestling with a porker in a muddy puddle. Neither you nor the pig could easily get a foot hold. Anything one would grab onto could simply slip right through one’s grasp, causing one to fall back into the yucky muck.
With any of these three metaphors, it is not good to linger in that scenario for too long. We do need to process our experiences. However, if we get to a point where we feel hopelessly stuck, it is advisable to seek out the services of a grief counselor.
Another Metaphor: Processing Grief
Here is another comparison for grief: a game show. I know, grief is certainly not a game, however, for the sake of visualizations, I feel it is appropriate.
In this game show, there are five doors from which one may choose. It does not matter at all which door one chooses first; neither does the order in which they are chosen. All five of the doors, however, must be explored. Door number one could be denial. Bargaining would be behind the second door. The third door may be concealing depression. Anger could be behind door number four. The fifth door would be acceptance.
These five elements: denial, bargaining, depression, anger and acceptance are the classic five elements of grief as coined by Elizabeth Kuhbler-Ross. According to her theory, grieving people need to experience all of these emotions in order to heal the grief. More current grief models do not adhere to the necessity of experiencing all five of these emotions. Here is a comprehensive resource comparing older and more current models of therapy as well as counseling: https://positivepsychology.com/grief-counseling/.
Grief Processing Final Metaphor
My last metaphor stems from my having been in elementary school for thirty-seven years. Perhaps I should explain that I spent the usual seven years there as a K- 6th grade student. My other thirty years were as a teacher! This final metaphor is: grief healing is play. The reverse is also true: play is grief healing. At the very least, play at least softens grief. My inner teacher tells me play is valuable. This site validates that it can effectively be used by adults as well as children: https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/play-therapy.
Think back to your childhood years. What did you enjoy during recess time? It could have been for outdoor or indoor recess times. How did you feel when running, romping and jumping through a field of grass? What about leisurely strolling down the sidewalk with a group of friends? Did you like to swing, climb the monkey bars or twirl on the merry-go-round? Perhaps you enjoyed organized team sports. Did you gather with your friends and chat? Maybe you were thrilled to sing or make up songs? Did you thrive by drawing or making or constructing things? If you’d like a little assistance in drawing on your inner creativity, check out Creativity 101 with 528 Hertz.
I propose play therapy for processing grief. This is how I process my grief. Think of what brought you joy as a child. Whatever attracted you then may still kindle a flame of attraction. Gift yourself time to reminisce, to roam, to play. Whenever we allow ourselves freewheeling time to explore, it calms the spirit and lessens grief. Finally, I leave you with a Rumi quote: “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” May you find joy and comfort in your exploration!