The Grief Spiral


Gravestones, Koyoto, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

I am told that towards the end of her life, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of Death and Dying, revisited her original grief cycle and clarified that the individual phases were not linear, but rather, more a spiral of feelings that one encounters during the grieving process.

One of my employees asked to speak to me this evening because he was going through a stressful time and really just needed someone to listen. He’s a young man, just turned twenty, who has worked for me for almost two years. His father passed away this January after a long cancer related illness and I’ve been impressed by how well this young man has  held up under his grief. Today he seemed to be cracking under the weight of it.

“I thought it would be over by now,” he said, almost pleading with me. “”I’ve been grieving for him all year, its been months. I thought it would be getting better by now.”

I didn’t tell him that it was going to get better. How could I? Grieving the death of a person you love takes a long time. I encouraged him to talk and we talked about things that could help like prayer (he admitted wanting to go to the Catholic Church, where he’d grown up, and light a candle for his father.)  I also asked him about members of his family who could give him support.

All I could tell him was, “Grieving the loss of a person you love takes a long time.”

I have read that it takes on average, two years, to process the grief of a lover’s betrayal. I can accept this. I know that I will never be the same person again. I can’t explain what it feels to discover that the one person whom you love and trust the most in the world has betrayed you. I have written tens of thousands of words in this blog trying to explain the feeling but in the end, feelings can never put into words. We can intellectualize the thought processes related to the feelings and we can tie them to stages others have written about. In this blog, I have also offered my dreams and metaphors to cope with this. But in the end, it is very close to having someone dying. The person whom I thought I was in a relationship with died, because he was no longer actually in that relationship with me, because his feelings about me had changed entirely, because the inner story and feelings and plans and hopes between us which I believed to be sound were actually all rotted through. It is the shock of the betrayal, and then the trauma, followed by the grief process, which makes it so prolonged.

Earlier in the day, I came across the little pink phone he gave me a couple of years ago, which I haven’t used since all this happened. It’s in the top drawer of my desk, and I keep just avoiding it. But today, thinking that I was strong enough, I charged it up and then took a look. There was the record of our last phone conversation, and in the inbox, although we rarely texted, a text he had sent me on a certain day in July, 2009, ‘Love you, darling’.

I told myself that he’d already been sleeping with another woman by this date, but I remembered the joy so sharply of receiving this text, that there was a pinch in my heart. I had spent the weekend with him and was taking the train back to Boston, and I remember waiting for the train with him that day, and the flash of sunlight through the train window and the wooded glades through which the train was passing, jetlike, and where I was sitting and exactly when the text had arrived, and its golden arrow to my heart, and my memories of hundreds of train rides to see him and back, first as a very young girl and now as a grown woman.

I scribbled down the date and time of this text on the back of a check book. For what possible reason?  what can it matter to receive a text like that from a man who’s already cheating on you and will continue to cheat on you for the next fifteen or so months until you find out? I told myself that it was good, I hadn’t cried. I was growing stronger. The grief was lessening. My heart may have shed a drop or two of blood after the pinch, but it did not burst open. ‘You never could have looked at this phone a few weeks ago, ” I told myself. “You are doing better. Time is healing you.

But the pinch in my heart took hold and bruised. It was the bite of a narrow snouted sharp toothed fox. Just a small quick bite- its razor-sharp little teeth just barely breaking the skin.

I wish I had not signed up for grief. I wish that I had always done what my father had wished for me to do in my life, and avoided all the tribulations I have put myself through by loving this one person more than others, for what seems like my whole life.

I pray for my grief and the grief of all other beings to be lessened.

Namaste,

Emmeline

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