Somewhere on social media I saw a quote that expressed the idea that grief is an ocean. I don’t know where I saw it, who said it or how it was originally said, but I remember it being put like this: Grief is like the ocean, you can’t stop it, you can only learn to swim in it.
That’s a word picture that I think is accurate and worth keeping in mind as you journey through the grief of losing a loved one.
I know you rather be back on dry land with your loved one, back to life the way it was, but the truth is your dealing with a new season of life. You can’t stop the grief you’re in, you can only learn to swim with it.
Learning to swim in an ocean of grief begins by accepting the cold hard truth that you can’t change what happened. It’s the new normal. It’s a reality that you have to get used to if you are going to keep your head above water and keep moving.
Learning to swim in an ocean of grief requires you to be aware that not everyone in your network of people are going to be there to help you. Oceans have sharks, jelly fish, and they have intimidating waves. People are going to mean well but they are going to say stupid things that may hurt you and trigger you tears. You’ll have to learn to ignore them, forgive them, and keep swimming.
Learning to swim is about knowing that there are helpful things in the ocean of grief that you can take advantage of, like support groups, authentic friends, insightful books, and good resources. The depressing side of grief causes us to want to retreat from activities and avoid others, but know who your helpers are and stay connected to them.
Learning to swim in an ocean of grief requires one to be patient and prodding. Oceans are big and vast. Getting through them is going to take time and intentional practices that keep you going, day by day, even if you don’t feel like it. I live a few miles from the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. When I stand on the beach and look out across the Gulf it appears endless. Grief feels that way until you see the shore on the other side, but that won’t happen untill you’re 99.9% across that body of water.
Learning to swim in an ocean of grief will become easier over time. Like distance swimmers who learn to pace themselves, you’ll learn to stay afloat and feel safer with your feet finally able to touch the bottom again. You’ll never be absent of the grief, but you will learn to incorporate it into your life and identity without it consuming your life and identity.
Likening grief to an ocean and the griever to swimming is a good mental picture of the journey that lies ahead after the loss of a loved one.
It also brings to mind a promise from God’s Word that you ought to find encouraging as well, which says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (Isaiah 43:2 NIV).