Grief comes in waves

Published 7:40 pm Tuesday, November 19, 2019

By Nathan Rice

My heart was heavy as the events from the previous day weighing on my mind. I spent the afternoon with Richard, one of my students, at a local mall. We had some lunch and went to the arcade, where we spent some time punching buttons while digital creations flashed before our eyes. We had a fun time, but it was the first time either of us had visited this place since we lost his two cousins earlier this year. I can’t speak for him, but the location we visited brought back memories of the times it was four of us instead of two of us. It stung, and that sting stayed with me the next day.

I decided to keep myself busy by cleaning one of the closets in my house. I opened the closet door and began removing items. I didn’t see the big inflatable ball that was behind the box I just removed. The ball fell from its spot, bounced on the carpet, and ricocheted off my knee. I looked at it as it rolled across the floor, and I stood in silence as what felt like a dagger pierced through my heart.

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It was John’s favorite ball. I never knew why, but he loved that thing. Richard, his two cousins, and I had completed many games with that old ball, including kickball, volleyball, and some that we made up as we went along. It was the second reminder in as many days that John was gone and never returning.

I know grief comes in waves, but having one crash over me that day was not easy. I worked hard earlier this year to deal with my own grief while trying to help Richard do the same. I even wrote several columns where I shared my story in the hopes that it would help others. All that now seemed pointless as my heart shattered all over again.

I share this story in the hopes that my experience will help others in our community. It would be redundant for me to repeat what I wrote earlier this year about grief, but there are two things that I can now add.

The first is that grief does indeed come in waves. The events of the days I described above are not the only moments that have caused my heart to ache. Those who have experienced a loss should expect that grief will return from time to time. These waves of grief do not mean that you are doing anything wrong. It’s simply part of the process, and it shouldn’t cause you to give up on healing.

Next, it is important that we care continually for those who have gone through a time of grief. We are probably all guilty of not checking on those who have experienced a loss after we pass the initial time of sending cards, dropping off food or delivering flowers. Continue to care for the ones you know have gone through a time of grief. Send them a card from time to time, drop them a message on social media, invite them over for dinner, or give them a call to say hello.

Grief comes in waves, but it does not mean that those who suffer loss must drown in an ocean of despair. It’s OK to go through the process of grief many times. It’s part of healing and learning to live life with a new scar. Let yourself heal as many times as you need, and be there for others at all times because you never know when a wave is about to knock them down.


Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at