SHEREE DIBIASE: Healing: It’s OK to grieve

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Sometimes unusual things happen in life at such odd moments, it's just hard to explain. I was standing in the “greet and thank-you” line with my Mom and my siblings at my Father's funeral service in Maryland this past week, when up walked a lovely woman and her young daughter.

The woman smiled and said she adored my parents from their friendship at church and she wondered if it was OK if her young daughter talked to me. I said of course I would love to talk to her, but I didn't know either of them personally. I thought it would be a quick hi and on they'd go, but this darling little girl had other plans.

She had seen me talk up front earlier in the service about my Father. I had told stories about the love and laughter he had shared with our family and she had listened intently, I soon realized. I quickly learned that she was 5 years old that she was very sorry that I was so sad. She said she thought having a Daddy like mine would be wonderful and she knew I would surely miss him. Of course I was in tears by now and I thought to myself, only from the mouth of a child does the truth pour out.

By then I was kneeling down to her height and she asked if she could hug me because she was sure, that this would make me “all better.” I said of course she could and then she hugged me tight. She then proceeded to tell me she would color me a picture to take my tears away and that she had a beautiful piece of jewelry like the one on her wrist, that she would bring me, that she knew would make me very happy. The bracelet had a beautiful cross on it and she said it would help. I smiled and told her thank- you, but she was not done.

Then with the frankness that only a child can do, she told me that she had been sad before too, just like me, when her Daddy left them. She said knew exactly what I felt like. Suddenly we were both crying again and I looked up at her mother who had tears in her eyes too. I told her I was so sorry for the loss of her Daddy and that I understood why she would be so sad. I told her we were alike because we could understand each other's pain and she smiled and said she couldn't wait to give me the picture and the jewelry to make it alright for both of us.

After she left that day, I have thought a lot about the grieving process. I believe it's not about one moment or a process of steps as I studied about in my medical profession. I believe grief comes upon us when we least expect it. It washes over and through us just like the waves at the ocean. I think sometimes the wave knocks us down and rolls us over and we struggle to get up, as the undertow is so great. We feel the pull of the tide and we fear our pain will take us out to sea and we will be lost and never return to the life we once knew. Other times the waves roll in and we jump them and laugh in their face that we survived, and other moments the grief comes and we dive right into the middle of the wave and suddenly we pop up on the other side, happy to be alive.

I've learned it's OK to grieve. It's OK to get lost. It's OK to want to stop the merry go round and get off to process the pain. This is all part of loss, change and healing.

In my profession of physical therapy, we make a living out of helping people heal their physical injuries. Sometimes the physical pain is so intense they want to give up. Sometimes the physical loss is so great they have lost their ability to work, play or have intimate relationships. They often have great sadness and grief and sometimes the healing process gets stalled out. Often the life they use to live is over and they have no vision of a future life. That's loss, that's pain, that's overwhelming.

That is where our physical therapists step in. We have suffered loss too. We are real people, with hearts that need healing too, and because of that we continue to strive in our office to step forward with our patients and be their advocate and cheerleaders. We know that to be connected, accepted and cared for is what we need to heal. We know that we do better in community, than alone. That nothing is too complicated or too far gone to redeem us. We know that new circumstances, need new ideas and new beliefs in order for us to be physically and emotionally well. Physical wellness can make us emotionally strong and it is our goal to provide you with this direction as you heal.

That day, kneeling with a little girl in my Father and Mother's church, something happened. My heart and her heart bonded together over loss, sadness and pain, but because of connection, acceptance and love our hearts healed a little bit more that day. I will never forget her and she and I will always be buddies!

• • •

Sheree DiBiase, PT, is the owner of Lake City Physical Therapy and she and her staff are on a mission to help people be well. Come see us at our Hayden (308) 762-2100, Coeur d'Alene (208) 667-1988 and in our Spokane Valley office at (509) 891-2623.

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