Ch.240 Grief is Like Three Trees

Ch.240 Grief is Like Three Trees

Feb. 2024

Recently I’ve been struck by the way people talk about the grief process. I’ve been thinking about how these phrases might apply to a tree, say a medium sized red pine tree like we have all over Wisconsin.

Healing. This pine has been struck by a mighty lightning bolt. It’s still alive, though, and over time it binds its wounds and repairs itself.

Growth. This pine is suffering through a drought. For a couple years it has barely survived. But now, gradually, the rains have returned; the pine is beginning to grow again.

Change. This pine was doing OK until another tree grew quickly and blocked it from the sun. It took time but gradually the pine bent its trunk sideways until it got back in sunlight.

Each of these analogies applies to my experience of grief.

Healing. The lightning bolt represents Pat’s death, of course. To the extent you could say that grief is a wound to the soul, one that strikes suddenly and brutally no matter how well you feel prepared, then I was indeed badly wounded by Pat’s passing. And I’ve been healing ever since. To use a medical analogy, it’s as if my broken legs have mended and now I can walk –and enjoy walking –again. Still, that tree will always bear scars from its wounds, as will I.

Growth. The drought is my sense of hopelessness and despair that began after Pat’s death, the feeling that life will never be joyful again. It’s as if one’s soul has been dried out –desiccated. No single shower or storm can renew the urge to grow; rather, it takes a longer period of gentle rains. But gradually my natural sense of optimism has returned, the love of and for life.

Change. Pat’s death is like a tree blocking the light. It ended forever my life as I knew it for 57 years. I’ve had to grow sideways, traveling on new roads to receive nourishment at new destinations. My friends and family have provided many of these paths, for which I am grateful. So has the grief support group I attend. I’m still that same pine tree but with a definite new bent. My greatest change is that I have become far more outgoing and extroverted than before. My life isn’t better or worse; it’s different.

          I like my three pines. They each speak about one aspect of grieving. Together, they show how complicated the grief process can be.