Facing Grief as a Whole Person

Participating in a webinar last night about Essential Oils and Grief got me thinking further about some of my struggles in grieving the traumatic loss of my two youngest daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13) in a truck underride crash on May 4, 2013.

It has been such a complicated grief. I know that writing about it along the way has helped me tremendously (not sure what shape I would be in otherwise):

But beyond that, I would like to say that it makes sense to me that approaching grief in a way that addresses the needs of the whole person is most likely to bring about wholeness. That includes taking into account the ways that our spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical needs impact one another.

A book by Dr. Caroline Leaf outlines the ways that our very memories are neurologically impacted by our emotions and that there is an impact of stress on the health of the whole person. Not only that, but she also gives suggestions for how to “detox” and move toward a more healthy lifestyle.

As a part of that webinar I mentioned, I made the comment that I am thankful for the sensory experience which I have known during my grieving by embracing quiet moments of peace in times outside as I breathe in the fresh air and sometimes the fragrance of pine trees or blossoms and become calmer listening to the sounds of the birds or the wind rustling leaves all around. Walking gives me a time away from responsibilities and reminders of the loss–or at least, if I cannot escape reminders entirely I am able to freely express my weeping heart or angry thoughts in the stillness of nature.

And it also makes sense that essential oils could be made a part of the process of promoting whole person healing.

In terms of how I am dealing with the grief spiritually, I know that God allowed their deaths to occur. I also know that He can work to bring good out of their deaths. I have been an obsessive participant in the process as a highway safety advocate because I have observed that God generally does not intervene to protect people from the impact of collisions and that it makes sense that He has given us the brains to figure out what we can do to make people safer.  I also know that nothing I do, or help to bring about, will ever bring them back.

Perhaps it is anger at what has not been done compared to what could be done to protect people from preventable crash fatalities that puts me in a position of helpless frustration. When I think of all the things which could have resulted in a different outcome, it leaves me with a roaring rage at the senselessness of their deaths. How can that ever lead to lasting peace?

Just yesterday, I was on an errand and took a different route than usual–because a major year-long construction project had just finished. As a result, I passed by a house which we had considered renting when we first moved to this city. The thought came to me that if we had rented that house, instead of the one we were living in on May 4, 2013, then we probably would not have been at that exact spot in our journey when the truck driver made the fatal mistake of hitting a car. If only. . .

Of course, I understand that there are so many things out of my control and that no one is guaranteed a long life. Nonetheless, I am quite certain that if we had left the restaurant 5 minutes earlier, AnnaLeah and Mary might be with us still today. Or if underride guards had been made stronger or the driver had been paying better attention (no matter what the reason was that he wasn’t). . .


Perhaps that line of thinking won’t get me any closer to accepting their deaths and being okay with their loss and mine. But it gives me an ongoing purpose of promoting safer roads through Vision Zero advocacy efforts to prevent loss and grief for others, as well as devoting my efforts to preserving the memories of two girls who knew how to love and laugh.

AnnaLeah and Mary


One thought on “Facing Grief as a Whole Person

  1. I don’t think anyone comes to terms with death and the loss of a loved one. All of us who read your blogs wish we could take some of your hurt away. We all think of the “what ifs”. I do think that writing is a good way to express your feelings and grief, even if you write for yourself and not the public. I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving with your family. With Gods love, Lela

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