Weeks 4 And 5: A River

Weeks four and five of the parent’s group brought an interesting and surprising metaphor into play: water. The two weeks centered on acknowledging, expressing, and coping with grief; and we spent a fair amount of time trying to understand things that I’m not sure that we were ever meant to understand – at least by historical reference. Now, I don’t mean that in any sort of ‘put-down’ kind of way, it’s just that we have to go do these special places and groups, talk with special people, only to try to begin to scratch the surface of some deep seeded feelings that we are experiencing daily. Why is that the case? Why can’t we be more open with each other, or more understanding of each other? Why are some feelings/topics taboo in education and discussion until they become something that we have to talk about in order to stop from internal detonation? Death is something that every single person will have to face in some fashion in their lives (hopefully in more ‘normal’ ways), and this seems like an extraordinarily reactive measure to something so common. It makes it hard to retrospectively try to grab control of your feelings after they all have been released like buckshot. But this is exactly where we find ourselves: trying to pick up the pieces, trying to make any sense of the future.

“You must learn to run your kayak by a sort of jujitsu. You must learn to tell what the river will do to you, and given those parameters see how you can live with it. You must absorb its force and covert it to your use as best you can. Even with the quickness and agility of a kayak, you are not faster than the river, not stronger, and you can beat it only by understanding it.” – Stung, Curtis, & Perry: Whitewater

One of the ways that we went about exploring how each of us was dealing with the grief in our normal lives was to list out all of our stresses on a chart. Of the 50 or so things listed on the chart, between us, we circled somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 things (!)….stuff like new assignments at work, family stresses, little good sleep, health worries, financial concerns, etc. These are all certainly issues that perhaps you are even facing, but when you compound those with a loss of a child, they all take on a heavier load.

“Men may dam it and say they made a lake, but it will still be a river. It will keep its nature and bide its time, like a caged animal alert for the slightest opening. In time, it will have it’s way; the dam, like the ancient cliffs, will be carried away piecemeal in the currents.” – Wendell Berry

So here we sit, in the middle of a rapid filled river, trying to figure out how to get to calmer water. We spent some time discussing the things that we are going to need on this trip on the river…things like a boat, a paddle, some sort of protection (helmet), a life jacket, a good mind, some food, and some rest. It’s a way of describing the self care that is needed to make it through these times somewhat sane. We did an exercise that asked the question: Who is in the boat with you? and it netted some really surprising results. Actually, probably not that surprising, but more confirming a reality that perhaps I would not have expected if I had to project the results of that question last year. There are people in to boat with us that I certainly didn’t expect to be sitting right there, and there are others who I expected to be in the boat that have long since watched it drift down the river from safe banks. One thing that I am certainly thankful for is the community of folks that surround us. We have heard horror stories of what people/family/friends have said to others in similar situations to us, and we are truly grateful that we have all of you. We have gained and we have lost during this time. We will reconnect with some people, and not with others.

We were given an article, and to be honest, it didn’t strike me as very interesting the first time that I read it (it seems a little embellished or overly dramatic…). I have since revisited it, and have found it’s underlying message to be helpful. Click here for the link to the story: Making music with what we have left.


  1. Thanks for letting us in once again. I have been offering my rosary for you in the morning when I drive to work. I know I can’t imagine if I even try what you are feeling these days. You marvel me with the music you make! loveyoumeanit…

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