Riding the Waves of Grief

I guess everyone has days in the year, like my January 4th/5th, that have the mark of grief on them no matter how much time passes.

I’d like to thank everyone who listened to my words about Seeking Solace yesterday and a special word of gratitude to those who wrote such empathetic comments.

I don’t believe that time, in itself, is the great healer that we hear so much about. Rather, it’s a combination of how that time unfolds and how we ourselves shape it, that is hugely significant.

And, there is no doubt that everyone is different in how they deal with loss and the same person may deal with different losses in very diverse ways. You just can’t generalise when it comes to grief, it seems.

Ever since J died in 1981, I’ve woken in the middle of the night at the time he died. That morning, I stole out to a beach we loved, saw the most beautiful sunrise and got a sense of his mental strength pouring into me. It was one of those other worldly kind of experiences and I’m certainly not about ‘other worlds.’

So, it didn’t surprise me to wake in the very early hours this morning. I got up, took Stan for a good walk and then went off to watch the new day dawn over the sea.

It wasn’t a spectacular sunrise but every dawning has its drama.

Sunrise on Tramore Beach (Jan 5th, 2016)
Sunrise on Tramore Beach (Jan 5th, 2016)

There were lots of seagulls around and I couldn’t take my eyes off this pair:


The gulls were a delight to watch as they wheeled about in the unfolding light. The two pairs of gulls in this next shot; one pair away in the distance and the other much closer, made me think of  the interplay between past and present and the importance of knowing that a new partner respects and understands the baggage that each brings to a relationship:

Life's Interrelationships
Life’s Interrelationships

Sunset never meant a thing to me on the 5th of January until today. At some kind of subconscious level, I think I felt that the sun had set when J breathed his last and that January 5th couldn’t have two sunsets.

So, it was that I brought Stan out to Garrarus Beach this evening and wasn’t even aware that it was sunset time and didn’t have a camera with me.  What greeted us there was one of the deepest, sweetest sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. There was a young woman on the beach, walking her dogs, and I noticed that she was taking photographs. We fell into chat about the magic we were part of and agreed that we’d never seen a sunset like this one before, even though we discovered that we’re both absolute regulars.

I was surprised when I heard myself asking her if she would email me a photograph of that special sunset. She very generously agreed and about an hour later, six photos arrived! Here’s the pair I like best.

Gentleness of Garrarus Photo: Rachel Moore Kennedy
Gentleness of Garrarus
Photo: Rachael Moore Kennedy

And how about this for intensity?

Elemental Garrarus (Jan5th, 2016)         Photo: Rachael Moore Kennedy

So, January 5th now has a sunset again after 35 years and a new bond has been made with another Woman of the Sea here in Co. Waterford.

It just goes to show that grief days can evolve into days emblazoned with colour and new beginnings.

I’d be more than interested to hear about your ‘grief days’ and how they’ve evolved. 




Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

52 thoughts on “Riding the Waves of Grief”

    1. Joseph, yes I think there is a strong association between sunset and grief. It can be very reassuring to see death as being as natural as the sun setting but I never realised how it could stop one from watching a sunset on a particular ‘grief day.’

  1. Everything happens for a reason and that woman was there to share with you the beautiful sunrise pictures of a special moment that you both witnessed. It gives one hope to see such sunrises each one so different from the next, with the promise that life does go on, and weathers the storms to a peaceful calm..Beautiful pictures…

    1. Thanks Joni for your kind words.
      I must say, though, that I have long had issues with the notion that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ Maybe that’s the pagan in me!!

      1. I have always felt we should learn a lesson from our experiences and until we understand the lesson it will show up time and time again.

        1. Couldn’t agree more, Joni.
          You remind me of the first school report I got from my Latin teacher when I was twelve: “Jean must develop the ability to learn from her mistakes.” I’ve been trying since those days of amo, amas, amat …

    1. Hi Reeanna, yes connecting with grief is a good way of describing it. I suspect that many people work at disconnecting from it for fear of where it will bring them. Each to his/her own …

  2. Nature explains grief like nothing else. Love your photos. That was an amazing sunset. There are times when I see mountains and I can feel my Dad so close yet he is gone almost thirty years.
    Nothing else brings him so close.
    Hugs to you. It’s not an easy way to begin the year.

    1. Hi Tric, that’s very interesting about mountains being what brings you closest to your father. I’ve been pondering that all day since I read the comment and wondered if you spent time with him on mountains or is it the solidity of mountains ….?

      1. Some of my favourite memories of my Dad are when we used to go climbing in Donegal, but it’s also the fact that I find the magnificence and permanence of mountains so comforting. It always brings home to me how insignificant our lives are in the big scheme of things but so important individually.
        It’s as if we live on in the echoes of the mountains we climbed, including my Dad and the child that was me.

  3. Oh Jean, I’m so sorry. LIfe is so strange. January 5 is my wedding anniversary, and to think it means a happy time for me when it is such sadness for you is so odd. Sometimes I just think: how can this even BE? Life is so up and down. It’s so sad to have these anniversaries at the holidays, but to have it at the start of a year seems just as horrific to me. My MIL died on my daughter’s 16th birthday, so her birthday is always a little “tinged” for her, if that makes sense.

    1. Hi Luanne, I hope you had a happy anniversary. There’s never a good date for loss; at least I don’t think so. I seem to have known a lot of people who died early in January. J certainly made it clear on the New Year’s Eve that he knew that 1981 was not a year that was relevant to him. He asked me to turn off the television a few minutes before the New Year was being rung in. I can more than understand his viewpoint.
      Yes, it certainly does make sense about your daughter’s birthday being ‘tinged.’

  4. I am sorry for all you’ve lost but those pictures are really a testament – just as the setting sunset holds a promise that it will rise again tomorrow, life ebbs and flows and change is constant but unexpected when it happens.
    I pray you will be well. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us.

  5. What a beautiful tribute. I have a few of those days-of-the-year too, and have also marveled at what time does and doesn’t do. The days before Christmas were smoother for me this year for the first time in a decade, but the start of the new year was harder. Thank you for the wise and thoughtful post.

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