I'll write later about the conference I attended today, but for now, here's what I doodled to myself this morning:
What You Need to Survive, In No Particular Order:
1. You have to acknowledge the reality.
2. You have to immerse yourself in the grief; you have to go deep down, all the way into and through it.
3. You have to have companionship ~ outside companionship, not just those caught in the same sadness.
4. You have to have work (defined as expansively as possible) that is challenging and absorbing.
These are my personal and of course, brilliant, conclusions. They have evolved from decades of observing and participating in my family of origin's frequent failures and sometimes successes in dealing with loss, and from several months of reading and listening to other parents who have lost children, some of who are finding their way, and some not so much.
I believe that you need all four things. Not necessarily all simultaneously, or in any particular order, or only for a specified period ~ although in some ways they are all interwoven.
Yesterday I spent some time with my spiritual director and I realized that he is the companion who makes it possible for all the rest to fall into place. I could not go where I go into my grief without his consistent presence, and I could not be in school without his support and encouragement. Maybe for someone else the source of stability and the interplay of the four necessities would look very different ~ maybe, for instance, someone else would find that the challenges of her work serve as a foundation from which she finds companionship and is able to face and explore her loss ~ but I'm pretty sure that they are all necessary in some kind of way.
Of course, I could be full of it. Maybe what you really need are the Ruby Slippers, and the problem is that they are in Kansas somewhere.