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Grief Paralysis: A Companion on the Endless Wave

by Henry-Cameron Allen

15 September, 2023

The triggers still surprise me, even after fifteen years as a Peregrine—one who has outlived a beloved child. A song, the scent of petrichor, the precise blue of a summer sky—they can all pull me under, plunging me into the depths when the tsunami waves crash about me relentlessly. I emerge gasping, struggling to tread the overwhelming currents.

And then it takes hold—paralysis, deep-rooted in grief. My limbs grow leaden, movements slow, as if navigating underwater. Numbness shields me from the waves but also smothers my senses. I drift aimlessly, vision narrowed to the past.

Sleep paralysis compounds the grief, its arrival just as unpredictable. At first, it felt cruel—awake in my dream state, immobilized, the weight of sorrow on my chest. But over time, I understood it as my mind limiting stimuli in the waking world that could trigger paralyzing grief. Though unsettling at first, it has become a welcome, protective companion.

Even in my darkest moments, I’ve learned to embrace these paralyses. I have redefined surrender—not giving up, but giving in, like floating effortlessly in a white water raft. By yielding control to the current when I am knocked overboard, lying back, feet up, trusting my ability to float, I discover that it will effortlessly carry me around the boulders and whirlpools to eventual calmer waters. I find this fortitude more potent than any thrashing or struggle to hold on to something could summon. And far less damaging.

Yet I cannot surrender fully to the depths. I work daily to remain tethered—writing, reaching out to others navigating grief, volunteering with parents who've suffered similarly on the journey. When I cannot pull myself up, my Peregrine community lifts me upon their wings until I can find my own again. Together we surface and soar above the worst waves.

Like the tsunamis, the paralyses also recede, revealing renewal—meditation, walking my dog, creating art. Life continues amid grief. For Peregrines, achievement lies in weathering each intact moment.

The world expects grief to follow predictable stages. But it ebbs and flows unpredictably, often isolating us in breathless silence. We need greater understanding of elongated, nonlinear grief—a natural human response to grieving, not a state to “get over.” There must be openness to varied coping strategies. I am exploring the quantum dimensions of the grief journey, and it is fascinating.

The path is endless. Grief will continue to knock me asunder, as I know it will for all my days. But with each cresting wave, I strengthen my capacity to float until the currents deliver me to shore once more and I can once again take to the skies.

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