Dear Maria,

I read the topics for your past columns and I noticed that there is an element of loss with each topic…aging parents, etc. So, I was wondering if you could write about loss of any kind and the grief process that might accompany those loses.

Getting a Grip on Grief

Dear Getting a Grip on Grief,

My heart goes out to you in your loss, whatever it may be. I touched on some aspects of grief in a recent column, and will add to it here. When my father died 20 years ago, I received a card from a dear friend, and the message on the card gave me profound comfort. Grief, the card read, is like a wave. Imagine yourself walking down the beach, when suddenly a wave breaks on the sand. It knocks you over, or makes you stumble. You may have been walking along just fine, thank you very much, before the wave hit you. You’re living your life, holding yourself together, when something reminds you of your loss, and the pain rushes in. The pain of grief is like that wave, and it sneaks up on you when you least expect it. No sense trying to hold the wave back; it’s impossible. Ride the wave as best you can, even if you fear it might overpower you. Given time, the waves will diminish in frequency and strength. But they’ll never go away entirely. So, with each new loss we experience, past grief gets stirred up. Better to “love when you can, cry when you have to,” as Dan Fogelberg sang. Holding it in becomes an internal pressure-cooker. Let off some steam through your tears. Along with the tears can come fatigue, forgetfulness, heighten sensitivity, and more susceptibility to illness. Take good care of yourself with more sleep, good food, and spending time with gentle people. Our culture doesn’t mourn well, so don’t look for permission to take care of yourself. You know what you need, and see to it you get it. Hang in there. It will get easier, I promise.