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Ready or Not, Here It Comes

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

Grief hits you out of the blue. Seemingly from nowhere, a wave of grief washes over you. You have no choice but to ride the wave until it washes you onto the shore of solid ground and you can again stand. You have just experienced a grief burst.

There is usually a trigger for a grief burst; a song, a smell, or a thought. Anything, really, can be a trigger. You are never really prepared for it and the wave of emotions washes over you in an instant.

At the funeral for my twin sons, the pastor’s wife sang a hymn, It Is Well With My Soul, as she strummed her guitar. I don’t remember much about the service. I was feeling numb as I sat and stared at the small white casket that held my twin babies. I remember feeling angry, betrayed and helpless. I knew on THAT day; my soul was not well; it was crushed.

Years later, I was singing in the church sanctuary during worship service. The band began the next song. The chords led into the first few measures of, It Is Well With My Soul. My heart began to pound, my throat constricted, the words clung to my vocal cords as I croaked them out in song. The words blurred and rolled off the page as I tried to focus. Tears rolled down my cheeks. All I wanted to do was run. I choked on the sobs as I scrambled down the aisle and out the doors.

The wave of grief tossed me about and there was no stopping it. A GRIEF BURST.

Ready or not here it comes.

I first read about grief bursts in Understanding Your Grief (Companion Press 2003) written by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. He described a grief burst as a sudden, sharp feeling of grief that can cause anxiety and pain. (p 75). Many people feel that grief bursts are the most frustrating aspect of grief because they catch us by surprise, when we are least prepared.

Remember that grief bursts are normal. It doesn’t mean you are crazy. A grief bursts is proof that the love you feel for your loved one is real, you remember him/her and you miss him/her in your life.

You can’t ignore a grief burst. The thing to do is acknowledge it and ride the wave until it stops tossing you about. Just as a wave crashes onto a beach, it slowly washes back out to shore. So, it is with a grief burst, it crashes, then subsides and fades away.

On this particular Sunday morning, I sobbed in the foyer until the song was over, wiped my eyes dry, took a deep breath and walked back down the aisle to my seat. The grief burst reminded me that the love I felt for my boys was real and would endure forever.

The next time you are blindsided by deep, sharp, sudden pang of grief, know that it has a name. It’s a Grief Burst. Once you name it, you can live it. Although grief bursts are unpredictable, they are a significant part of living with Grief In Life.


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