Finding Shelters In The Storm
© Betty Sue Eaton
Everyone in the world is identical!  Outrageous, but true. We are all born the same way, and we
all die. That is a fact.  What is not identical is each individual's reaction to the death of a family
member no matter by what means. What matters is that our loved one is no longer living with us
in this place.

As a grief counselor, I have observed that invariably one of the most common reactions to the
death of a loved one is a roller coaster of emotions. Everyday life is made up of peaks and
valleys of emotions; sometimes those peaks are much higher and the valleys much lower than
is normal. We are caught in a constant state of flux that we find impossible to deal with to reach
a manageable equilibrium. For instance, you may find yourself laughing riotously at a joke or
situation that does not merit that kind of mirth. On the other hand, you may be suddenly
dumped into a mess of soggy tears at a simple empathy prompting story.

I experienced those emotions to the extreme as I tried to recover from a divorce. One of the
students living in the college married student's apartments I was managing told me one day that
she was going to be engaged to be married. I was not fond of the girl, but her story dissolved
me into tears. That was a totally inappropriate reaction to both the news and my unexpected
response to it. Another of the students, a senior psychology major, witnessed the event and
later counseled me to seek help as he feared that I was on the verge of an emotional
breakdown. He was right. I did seek out professional help and found that one of the symptoms
of emotional collapse is inappropriate situational response. The counselor advised me to
externalize - express my feelings to someone I could trust to support me emotionally. That was
probably the hardest, most painful work I have ever done on myself, but in the end it was well
worth all the tears and anger I was able to work out!

As you progress through your grief journey, try to find someone, or something, that you feel
safe with and "externalize" your feelings. In doing so, you will be able to put the proper
perspective on your irrational behavior, ie: laughing at the wrong times, too loudly or too long,
or crying at something that does not merit the behavior, or not crying at a situation that truly
deserves your sincere tears. I cannot stress too strongly the importance of sharing your grief as
well as your progress with someone. You will get appropriate feedback, honesty and
reinforcement from a trusted confidante. Maybe your trusted friend could be your pastor, or a
fellow worker, or a Bible study group. We all found those things in the grief counseling group,
HOPE (Helping Others through Prayer and Encouragement). And still today, even though we
are separated by a great distance, we still share over the telephone and still receive honesty,
feedback and reinforcement when we are on one of those peaks or down in one of those
valleys.

This will be very hard at first, and you may feel that nothing is going to be better for you, that no
one truly understands where you are coming from; but one day, you will look at how far you
have progressed through your grief and realize that those highs and lows have become much
less severe and your life has taken on a manageable rhythm of slight swings instead of intense
jagged peaks and valleys. "They" say that time is a great Healer. That is true, but it works
faster when you seek a little help from a friend, your neighbor, who may not walk in the same
steps as you, but they do walk the same path. But most of all, our greatest friend, neighbor, and
Counselor is our Lord, Jesus Christ, and He is the One who can comfort us most when the
going is really, really hard.


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