A couple of years after moving to Austin, I bumped into an unfortunate discovery…SOME ANTS BITE. When I lived in Southern California, the fire ants had not yet arrived, but in Austin, they were thriving. A good rain will definitely draw thousands, if not millions, of them to the surface. Even more unfortunate to my discovery of the fire ants, was the discovery of my allergic response to them. One bite would cause a huge welt and swelling for days. It has been years since I have been bitten, but during the summer months in those early years in Austin- with young kids- going to the swimming pool was necessary for survival…and I was bit by quite a few fire ants. My allergic response was alarming in that each new bite would not only cause a new welt where I was freshly bit, but it would also cause all the other previously bitten sites to flare up with a welt. Needless to say, I dared not travel far without an epipen, topical antihistamine, and oral antihistamine.
Grief like fire ants employs a similar attack. Most people don’t recognize all the times they are grieving. We grieve when someone we love dies or moves away, but we also grieve the loss of jobs, opportunities, hope, dreams, freedom, moving, health, independence… Empty nest syndrome is grief. Retirement can cause grief. Our older population is struggling with high levels of depression…that can be best explained by grief.
Like my fire ant experience, when someone is grieving a loss, often all the grief rises to the surface and complicates the grief. Grief resurfaces on anniversaries or during certain events that remind us of the loss. Grief is not weakness. On the contrary, it is the sign of powerful love, and strong hope, ending in surrender and despair. Sometimes grief happens at an early age.. a traumatic experience or parental divorce or the death of a loved one. People learn to handle it at 5, but now they're 10 or now they are a parent to a 5 year old and what was handled at 5 needs to address the grief event from a new perspective. Grief pops back up and threatens mental homeostasis, causing a grief reaction. If ignored and untreated, it can turn to depression or other physical illness. Grief requires its own version of antihistamine. Therapy, counseling, meditation, prayer are all powerful antihistamines for resolving grief.
Grief can present itself as pride or wrath. People might withdraw or appear sad, hopeless, unable to function like they once did. If your friends or family are going through hard times, be gentle and understanding, listen, and be willing to encourage them to seek help. It is amazing how much healing a little kindness, patience, and thoughtfulness can bring to someone struggling with grief and loss.