I sat in the back of the funeral service. Crying and crying.
I just could not stop the tears from flowing down my cheeks.
My friend, the granddaughter of the woman whose memorial it was, looked at me with puzzled eyes as she passed by. Her eyes were clear.
I had barely known her grandmother, after all. Why was I crying so insistently?
My eyes were red with the tears. I am certain my face was blotching – You know the way your face gets when you cannot suppress the “ugly cry?”
I thought for certain I would be able to get through the service. I thought I could support my friend and her family without this happening. But alas, her grandmother was born the same year my Dad was.
It was only a few months past my Dad’s death. There were things in the service that triggered the pain and loss of my father’s death.
The same thing was happening when I would listen to the radio and a song would come on I knew my Dad liked. -Or the weather man would talk about the snow in Indiana. -Or I saw a daughter holding her father’s hand. -Or I looked at the moon and realized tomorrow would soon be here, but my Dad would never be present with me again.
Tears of uncontrollable sadness just poured. The tears had no regard for what I needed to get done in any day or who I was going to be speaking with.
The grieving had no respect for my need to carry on in my grad school program. It interfered with special dates with my husband and the need to be fully present with my amazing two year old son.
You Mean There’s A Word For This?
Dad died almost 25 years ago – November 30, 1991. I was 30 years old – married, with the cutest 2 year old boy, and in grad school for Marriage Family Therapy.
I continue to wear Dad’s wedding ring on my left hand, next to my wedding ring finger. He was one of my best friends. I continue to be thankful for a loving, gracious and fun father.
It wasn’t until some years later I discovered through my training in trauma therapy, there is a word for what I was experiencing. Sudden Urges of Grief, (SUG), is the name given to the experience of grief being triggered and the tears just flowing.
This may happen in public or in private. Regardless, as much as you can, there is a healthy response to a SUG. And that, my friend, is let the tears flow. Suppressing this natural emotional expression will prolong your journey through grief. Suppressing emotion may also lead to chronic headaches, as well as pains within the body.
But I Have To Work and Carry On With Life
If you are experiencing sudden urges of grief and you have to work even while you are feeling intense emotions, there is a beneficial exercise you may want to use through this very real dilemma.
- Be very intentional about the time of day, location, as well as the ideal amount of time you might need. The time needed will slowly reduce as you move through your journey. The days allocated may gradually reduce from seven days a week to four days – to three days – to two days. For instance, if you are going through your day and become saddened, remind yourself you will grieve at 6:30 PM today for a half hour to an hour of time.
- You can journal during this time, call a friend, color, draw, listen to music, or simply allow yourself to think and cry.
- As an extrovert, I found this exercise to be helpful in knowing I was not stuffing my grief or need to express, but rather, I was purposefully going to honor my emotional makeup and my Dad at a later time.
- Doing this exercise will allow for gradual emotional regulation if you are needing to carry on with work and duties of life. It may reduce the potential complication of losing a job or having to quit a grad school program because the tears won’t stop.
Journaling is the method of writing that allows your brain to see what your heart is feeling. Whether you cry a lot or not at all, journaling will help you walk through this journey.
Journaling can happen through bullet points or long hand writing. It can be poems, letters or a daily review of your feelings and actions. Just be intentional to grieve the loss of your loved on through the process can reduce the Sudden Urges of Grief.
One person I know wrote letters to her loved one for a year on a daily basis. This type of journaling allowed her to slowly integrate the loss she was feeling and slowly let the relationship with the loved one change. The letters helped her to grieve in a way that she could also maintain her daily responsibilities.
If journaling does not work for you – Do. Not. Do. It.
I’ll be supplying other exercises throughout this series you may find helpful.
Today, almost 25 years later, I still cry when I am watching a movie or hear a song about a father/daughter relationship. I imagine I will need tissues at my daughter’s upcoming wedding as my husband, her very wonderful and close dad, gives her away and dances with her.
The tears still come. They just are more “convenient.”
Your journey through The Soul of Grief will be unique.
I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and kind to yourself.
I am Kate Pieper, LMFT. I am your reluctant tour guide during The Soul of Grief. My hope is to encourage you through your unique journey through this shadow of death. You can reach me at kate@katepieperlmft or 530-268-3558. The above is not professional counseling. Hopefully, it is encouragement for you.