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Meadowlark Hospice

Dawn's Notes

Waiting on the Wind - March 2018
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW

When our youngest grandson Will was five, he and I were chatting over the backyard fence with my neighbor Lori.  During the conversation, Lori talked directly to Will, focusing on what Will was saying.

I cannot recall what prompted one statement that Will confidently spouted off to Lori, but it was such a big statement for such a little guy—a statement he must have heard an adult say—but he used it appropriately.

Will proclaimed, “A person’s gotta do what a person’s gotta do!”   After their talk, I have thought how Will’s statement can relate to various situations in life including grief.  A “person’s gotta do what a person’s gotta do” to survive, to heal, and avoid getting “stuck” after a loss.          

Immediately after a death, there are many “gotta dos” to get done.  Paperwork, bills to pay, thank you notes to send.  But then after things settle down and the reality of a loss sets in, it may be confusing to know where to go from there.    

The death of a loved one changes our lives drastically, and life can be scary.  In a sense, we are in uncharted waters, wondering if you should stay where you are, or dare to dream a new dream.     

In some ways, not knowing what to do after experiencing a loss can be compared to a sailboat getting stuck at sea where there is no wind to push the boat forward.  There is one such zone located near the Equator, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), where boats or ships can be stuck from days to weeks with no wind to propel them along.  It is also known as “the doldrums,” an old maritime term.  

When the doldrums set in, ships are at the mercy of nature.  Frightening stories have been written about sailors whose lives have been threatened and lost due to lack of food or drinkable water.   

Grief can be like getting stuck in a windless ocean, but research shows that only a small percentage of persons who are grieving actually get “stuck.”  If you are one who feels like you are going nowhere, try to do what you can to get moving forward again.

Grief is not the only situation in life when we can get stuck.  In cases of severe depression, some may feel emotionally paralyzed, unable to eat or sleep, and have difficulty making decisions, similar to being caught in the doldrums.   

If you are caught in too-still waters, you may be tempted to just sit it out and wait for your heart to heal.  Healing may come without any action on your part.  But if waiting is not working, then do what you can to get unstuck.  Don’t keep waiting on the wind to get you moving toward the future.      

Get out your binoculars, hang them around your neck, and shinny up the pole.  Take a long look around, and assess your situation.

If there is no help in sight, try adjusting your sails.  Tilt the sails east, west, up or down, and see if you can catch a breeze.  If your “ship” still won’t budge, you may need to take other measures.   

First, don’t give up on life.  Send up a flare.  Call for help.  Talk to a friend, a pastor, or counsellor.  Read materials about how to deal with grief and consider a bereavement group.  With your doctor’s approval, try some gentle exercises.

Eat healthy food.  Play music.  Consider learning or doing something new—a new class, a trip, or a new project.  Take baby steps if you must—even small steps will get you moving.

Do something enjoyable for yourself.  Do something good for someone else.  Remember you are the captain of your life.  It’s your ship!  Even though you may not physically die as those on a stalled ship with no wind, you could lose out on what life has to offer.

Mel Tillis wrote a song called “Waiting on the Wind.”  One verse says:

“If you rise for every challenge, if you run to catch your dreams,
That star that you keep reaching for is closer than it seems.
Storms of life may force you to change course now and then,
But never be caught waiting on the wind.”

Sometimes, as Will said, a person’s gotta do what a person’s gotta do.”  Dare to dream, and don’t get caught waiting on the wind.

By Dawn (Thorn) Phelps RN/LMSW

Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Meadowlark Hospice
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
(785) 632-2225
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator