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The Visual

Posted on February 12th, 2013



The Visual

Part One

by Michael R. Tharp, CFSP

Until recently I had the opportunity to cross over three arms of Lake Anna as I would drive to work.  It is a scenic drive through the natural beauty of the Virginia piedmont traveling through, historical Civil War Battlefields, along routes to other Battles, and passing many fields of cattle, corn and hay.  One day while reflecting on what would have taken place here some 150 years ago, it occurred to me that the creation of Lake Anna, a reservoir built to provide clean, fresh water for the nuclear power plant that was being built, was an excellent visual of the grieving process.  How appropriate in an area where grief abounded during the 1860’s and the Civil War.

Through the years I have walked with many people who have shared the pain of their loss as their heart was being ripped apart and being filled with all types of unwanted feelings and emotions.  Anger, bitterness, fear, anxiety, numbness, disbelief, and depression are just a few of the emotions that rush in.  When the land was cleared and the dam was completed, many believed it would take about three years to fill the reservoir.  But thanks to Hurricane Agnes, the reservoir was filled in 18 months.  Just as a reservoir is filled with water, our torn heart is filled with all types of emotions.  For some it takes time to fill with these emotions while others are filled almost immediately. Each of us is different and we all grieve differently.

As I cross each bridge I see the banks of Lake Anna which represent the walls of a broken heart and the water as the grief that fills the heart. Like the building of the dam that changed the geography around it, there was an event that caused the heart to be forever changed.  That event may have been the death of a loved one, death of a pet, loss of a job, or life changing event such as the youngest child leaving home or retirement.

 Many mornings as I cross over the water, it is early enough that the water is still, calm or as some would say, “smooth as glass.”  However just as we are not able to peer into the water and see what is lurking below the surface we can’t peer into someone’s heart and see what emotions are present. 

As the surface of the water is calm, we assume everything below the surface is calm also.  Even though a grieving person may seem calm and in control of circumstances we don’t know what is happening under the surface.   There are swift currents, fish feeding on aquatic life, and even on each other; so too are our emotions working inside us.  Anger, rage, and bitterness sweep through us out of control; but society expects to “be over our loss” so we appear as though nothing is happening because ripples or waves on the surface would be unacceptable in today’s society.

Warmer days and cool nights raise the water temperature causing fog to form over the surface of the water in the morning and it is difficult to see the surface of the water.  Likewise the griever may create a “covering” around them so we are not able to see them as they are.  Sometimes it protects them so they don’t have to discuss their emotions either because they don’t feel they are able without crying or because they don’t want to because many times people have minimized the pain of their loss.  Likewise their “covering” also distorts how they see what is happening around them as they walk through their grief journey.  If you look closely, the photo at the beginning of this article and the one in this paragraph were taken from the same location only 30 minutes apart the same morning. So you see the view can be quickly distorted through the fog or return to a “normal” rather quickly whether you are looking in or on the inside looking out.

Through the years many people have referred to the grieving process as a grief journey and I concur.  As travelers make this grief journey they encounter many difficulties from valleys so deep they think they will never be able to get out, mountain top experiences where they have to pinch themselves to see whether it is real or not, to long barren times of loneliness.  During these times are we willing to be passive spectators allowing a friend, co-worker, or relative to drown in their own emotion fearing they will drag us in their lake of emotion causing us pain, our own fear, or awkwardness?  Or are we going to jump in the water and help them on their journey?  In today’s intellectual society we think we have to say or do something spectacular to help not realizing the spectacular is just being there with a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on. 




                                                                                                                                                                To be continued




Mike is a licensed funeral director for Ransford Collon Funeral Home in Caro, MI.  With almost 30 years in funeral service, Mike is also a Certified Celebrant, Life Coach, and a former member of Michigan Funeral Directors Association’s Continuing Education Committee.  Mike can be reached at 810-965-2680 or [email protected]






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