During my early years, from 4th grade through 9th grade, I ran track in school. In Jr. High I also ran cross country. For years after that I ran simply for the joy of it. Although I have long since hung up my running shoes, I have continued to cherish those memories, wishing that somehow I could return to a semblance of fitness.
While reflecting yesterday on the events of the past couple of weeks concerning my mother’s passing, I considered the various ways that individual persons deal with their grief. It is such a personal thing; so equally potent, but also vastly different based on the unique needs and backgrounds of each individual. Even for one person, the process may take on various characteristics. Professionals likely would call this the grief cycle with its stages of grief. I don’t care to pidgeon-hole what people are feeling or thinking, but it caused me to think about track and field in terms of a metaphor for grief.
At first I thought to compare the sprints to the long distance competitions. Some persons seem to cycle through their grief quickly; others do so far more slowly. Some are naturally outgoing and public; others are very private. Neither is right or wrong. They simply demonstrate the differences of individuals.
But then I thought about decathletes, those who compete in ten events, including sprinting, field events (strength and jumping), and long distance. I think this is a more apt metaphor which recognizes the long, grueling process one individual might experience over a longer period of time. Any metaphor falls short, to be sure. It suggests, however, that although there are certain times when a person might seem strong, there will come other occasions when substantial support, understanding, and care is needed.
Grief has its own timeline unique to the individual. We commonly expect people to grieve for days, weeks, or even a year or so. If it goes longer than that, then often questions begin to rise about how soon they will move on. But who are we to question the timing? Rather than hurry the process along, we should embrace the opportunity to love and care, recognizing that it can take a long time, and that particularly in the year following each new special season or day brings memories flooding back: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and so on.
Macy and Sons Funeral Home of McMinnville, Oregon has an extensive and helpful list of links for grief resources. If you or someone you love is grieving, consider accessing these resources for helpful information.