Some late-deafened people find it helpful to create an image of how they picture their grief over hearing loss. It helps them to communicate to others as well as to themselves what they are feeling inside. The image may be of a tunnel or a maze suggesting feelings of being trapped and not knowing where to turn. Others feel as if they are caught in a tug of war being pulled in two different directions. One side represents the hearing world and the other side signifies the deaf world.
I too have a picture of my grief. I am in the middle of a movie theater, popcorn in hand, watching a great movie. Like the others in the theater, I am very much into the movie, cherishing every word. I roar with laughter along with everyone else. Gradually I start to notice that the volume is going down. I am kind of amazed that no one else is noticing that the actors are mumbling or that there is a technological problem. I start to realize it’s me who is having the problem. I feel shame. I tilt my head forward, squeezing my eyebrows together willing myself to hear. I lean over and ask the people sitting next to me “what did that character say?”. The first few times I get an answer but the more I ask the more impatient the other people become. They are trying to enjoy the movie too. So I sit and watch the movie in silence.
How would you describe your grief? Authors Sandi Caplan and Gordon Lang in Grief’s Courageous Journey state that grief is not something to be ashamed of. It is not a sign of weakness. There is no quick fix for it. You can’t take a pill, use alcohol, or drugs to be rid of grief. The only way to be rid of it is to embrace it and work through it.
Let me take you back to the movie theater and share with you how the movie ended. After going through the feelings of shock, sadness, frustration, and anger, I finally become creative and start to write my own script and make my own music. I give my own meaning to the movie. I feel empowered and resourceful. I realize that the next movie I attend can have printed words that my eyes can hear. Movies do not need to be silent. Nor can I be silent about my needs.
If your picture of grief does not have an ending at this time, that’s OK. It will come in time. Next month’s article will focus on Caplan and Lang’s suggestions for how to travel on the road to healing.
Caplan, S and Lang, G. (1995). Grief’s courageous journey. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
(A reprint of an article I wrote 20 years ago, when I was the founding President of ALDA-Suncoast of Florida, a support group for people who have become deaf. The article appeared in the newsletter, ALDA-Sun. At the time, I was going back to school to change professions from being a foreign language teacher to becoming a mental health counselor.)