We expect to feel deep sadness and grief at the time that our loved one dies, yet often we do not. As I've outlined before, there is so much to do, so many details to look after, that we can rely on our natural state of shock to get us through without many tears. We may be aware that we are feeling sad, but the sadness then is nothing compared to the sadness that is to come.
I am now five weeks past my mother's death. On Thursday morning, just before my students showed up for class, I felt the waves of grief hit me head on. I was biting back tears, forcing myself to find the strength to go forward with my day. I was afraid someone on staff would notice and reach out to console me. I say afraid, because if anyone had tried to be kind to me at that moment my walls of self-protection would have crumbled and I would have become an emotional heap.
Knowing that this unexpected flood of grief, seemingly coming from nowhere, was, in fact, predictably on time, did help. It allowed me to fully acknowledge the parts of my being that were screaming for release and attention, while assuring those parts that I would find time for them on the weekend. Now it is the weekend, and I can find the safe places to go deeply into my grief. Now I am surrounded by those who love me most, and I can let myself experience the deep vulnerability of loss.
In years past, when I have felt this need to grieve, to let some of the pain come to the surface, I have watched a sad movie or listened to sad music. Acknowledging the grief and letting it come out robs it of some of its power to derail me in unexpected moments.