Unsurprisingly, the death of my son has shaped a lot of my experience of the world in the last few weeks. As I write this, it has been 43 days, still within the traditional 49 days of Tibetan Buddhism’s “bardo” journey between death and reincarnation. For sure, I’m going through a bardo of my own. While I don’t profess to really understand the complexities of the ideas in Tibetan Book of the Dead, it seems to include the idea of confusion interfering with the process.
I don’t think it has really hit me yet, and I may be interfering with the normal process of grief.
Alcoholics, drug addicts, food addicts, workaholics, all share a tendency to use something to avoid dealing with something that really needs dealing with. My wife observed as I greeted people at my son’s memorial service that I was in “professional mode.” An an introvert who has adapted to an extroverted culture and who works as a writer and speaker, I have certainly developed some “techniques” for interacting with people.
“Professional mode” helped me deal with an uncomfortable, potentially heart-wrenching situation. At the same time, it may also distance me from the love and support of friends, colleagues, and family—and from myself.
I feel grief, certainly. I feel it privately. I’m not comfortable putting it all out in public, although I’m comfortable writing about it and even talking about it in the communication training I do. But there’s a difference between writing and talking about it and allowing myself to fully feel it, just as there’s a difference between writing and talking about joy or love or any other emotion and fully feeling it.
I’m still navigating this unfamiliar territory. I’m learning that coping mechanism are neither inherently good nor bad, and it’s OK if I use a coping mechanism until I can deal directly with the complex feelings around such a loss. I do, however, want to remain aware of when I slip into professional mode, which may serve well in some situations and not in others.
You might benefit from such an aware also. Do you have a professional mode? Do you use it outside of your work? Do you notice?
About the writer
Donn King is a speaker, writer, college professor and pastor. He blogs regularly at Thriving in Exile, a publication on practical Christianity to cope with living in post-everything America.