The Tidal Wave of Grief

waves of grief
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” Vicki Harrison My favorite description of grief

The physical effects of the wave

Like so many others, I have found grief is like a tidal wave. It can arise from nothing, or sometimes the least little thing. It overwhelms you and begins to take you under the water. You loose your breath, you gasp, water covers your face. It overwhelms you and begins to take you under the water. rather covers your face and clouds your vision. You look for something steady and sure to hold onto, something to help you keep your balance and float until it runs its course.

Reactions to the wave

You are terrified, afraid of drowning. Sometimes it goes on and on and you think it will never end. It may trick you and pause, stopping for a few moments, before rising even higher and again trying to drag you down.


The waves come often at first and you sink deep before finding your way to the top for a breath. Somehow you manage to learn to hang on, you learn what can keep you afloat, and at times you can even sense it is coming before it arrives so you can prepare. Practice makes you a bit more prepared, but every time it frightens you and grips you tight, especially when it is without warning. It threatens to end the every existence you have managed to find.

Learning to swim

As time goes on the waves don’t seem to get as high. The main thing about learning to swim through it is that you know it is a wave and that it will end, it does stop. The fear in your heart is lessened by the hope that it will pass. Instead of helplessly fighting the wave, you allow yourself to feel it’s power, because you learn to trust that it will not drown you. You have learned to swim not fight. You learn that the wave arises from the bottled up love deep inside. It allows the love an escape hatch, a way to remind you it is there, never ending, every fully under control.

The positive in the wave

I have learned what my floatation devices are, and I have learned to hold on, to feel the water and know it is my love flowing out of my eyes. While I want to control when and where, I hope it never ends, for it reminds me how much I have loved.

For more on my grief journey see my book

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