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Screams in the Pillow

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

The photo sat on the bedside table for years. She dusted the frame, fondly remembering the day it was taken. The innocent young girl, so full of life and excitement, loved the swings. The picture captured her mid-flight, hair streaming behind her, hands gripping the chains and mouth in a wide-open smile. Her mom, reliving the moment, could faintly hear the squeal of delight.

The framed memory faded as the tears welled and began to stream down her face. She felt the burning sensation in the pit of her soul. The anger and despair began to boil. Her heart beat faster and faster. She could not contain it, no matter how hard she clenched her throat, jaws and eyes. She grabbed her pillow and buried her face in the downy feathers just as the scream escaped her body. She screamed into the pillow until her body went limp. Her hair clung to her forehead. Lowering her pillow, sweat, tears, saliva and snot saturated the case. She noticed the calmness creeping into her soul. Again.

This wasn’t the first time she allowed the screams to overtake her. There were weeks where she could dust the same picture and smile. It wasn’t always the picture that caused the grief burst. Sometimes a smell, a song, a cookie or a comment from a friend would bring on a burst. She had learned that grief was very unpredictable. Waves of it would overtake her, consume her, then fade away. She knew what triggered the bursts. She figured out how to manage one. Screaming and crying into a pillow got ugly at times, but she knew that the calm would come and she could rest in it. She also knew that the tumultuous times would return, but she knew her grief needed to be felt. In a way, her grief was her way of fiercely loving her daughter.

Being able to recognize and sit with the emotions of grief takes patience. It is uncomfortable and full of uncertainty. It is easier to let ourselves become distracted by anything that takes our focus from our pain. We work more, eat more, drink more, or exercise more. The distraction becomes our addiction. It becomes our pattern, we run to our addiction rather than face head on the feelings and emotions of grief. The distraction is exchanged for feeling our grief. We refuse to acknowledge the pain and push it into the recesses of our life. However, learning to accept and manage the waves of grief is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.

Through trial and error, we learn to sit with our pain. We learn what triggers it, what it feels like and how to ride the wave. Through patience and grace, we become aware of the ebb and flow of grief. We boldly acknowledge that this is Grief In Life and we live our grief in ways that work for us.


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