Today' post I am writing has been weighing on my heart for sometime. I know I have promised a series on thankfulness + gratitude, and that is coming soon. But this five letter word has been ever present on my mind. I am about to lose someone else who I love and cherish. I have agonized over this, been angry with God, and frankly been re-acquainted with the beginning stages of grief.
So yes, today's post is about grief. If you hopped on The Z List for the first time, I can assure you that not all of my posts are this morose or gloomy.
Grief is that elephant in the room. One of my former therapists said it best, there is no proper way to grieve.
Because how do you grieve the loss of someone you love? Whether you lose them in death, or in relationship, grief sucks.
Side note: You can grieve many things. Death is what I focus on in my post, but you can grieve relationships or situations.
The internet and message boards would like to tell you so much about how to grieve, or the best way to mourn. They will give you their five step method, their year through grief method, and in their opinion, the "best" way to move on.
Is it possible to move on from someone? Yes, there is an idea of acceptance. I agree with that. I am mostly to the point where I have accepted the fact that Dad isn't here. He missed high school graduation, he won't see me walk the stage in May, and he won't grab my hand as I walk to my beloved.
This, I have come to accept.
But sticking to the post title, I am about to tell you some "facts" about grief that aren't always represented on book shelves.
This is no knock to the psychologists and therapists who spend months writing books on grief. Ive read my fair share, and some have really helped.
So here is what they may not tell you:
They might not tell you that there are triggers, even 1,679 days into your grieving process. There are smells that remind me of my dad. There are sounds (he absolutely loved Neil Diamond). I can't be near Gordon Biersch, because every day after work my dad popped one open.
Sometimes looking at my niece makes me sad, because I know that Daddy would have been besotted with her.
When you grieve, people will tell you to stay strong. Mourning isn't weakness. I actually find mourning to be the opposite. The nights where I have sobbed ceaselessly into my pillow, or into my mommy's arms, I have felt strong. Because I knew that the love I had for my dad was stronger than any earthly force.
Some also think they have the right words. They don't. Even what I am writing isn't right. Humans tend to want to find logical answers. There is no explanation for a healthy twenty two year old getting end stage cancer. None.
Clive Staples (aka C.S. Lewis) wrote one of my favorite books on grief. It is titled, A Grief Observed.
In it, he writes:
“We cannot understand. The best is perhaps what we understand least.”
I know that is frustrating to read. Hard to grasp at. The unknown is terrifying. Actually, most of my anxiety stems from the unknown.
But perhaps there is peace in knowing not so much. I can't write much on this, and honestly I wont try, so on to my next point.
People might try and put a time table on your grief. Know that a year, or two, or even ten, is not nearly long enough to grieve.
It has been nearly five years for me. I still miss Dad like it was April 29, 2011. Grief is lifelong.
That really isn't meant to sound negative. Actually, in a twisted way, it is somewhat beautiful.
You're grieving the loss of a life you cherished. A life that made this world unique. And a loss that makes this world a little emptier.
"Grieving can be beautiful. Because often times it displays our love for the lost. You will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn't seal back up. And you come through. Its like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly-that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp."
Ann Lamott sums it up so perfectly. You never do get over loss. Not completely. You miss someone every damn day of your life. Sometimes it hurts to wake up, get out of bed, and face another day without them.
But then you realize, they haven't fully died. Yes, they are buried in a casket or maybe their ashes lies somewhere over Wrigley Field (my dad worked in the funeral business, I know too much about this stuff).
So while physically they can't be there to hug you, they are present with you forever. Whether it is an Indians game (my daddy sure loved his Tribe) or a shopping trip (the someone I referenced to earlier is the best dressed human I know) they hug your heart forever.
And you extend their legacy by living for them, not forgetting them. Don't wallow forever. If they lived twenty-two or fifty-nine years, smile for the joy and amazingness they brought to this Earth, and others.
Yes, laughing is okay. I mean, we are human. Like my therapist said, there is no proper way to grieve.
You will feel broken. There is a part of you that is missing. You won't move on, but you will stand again. Because, they want you to. They compel you to stand. Live in honor of the one or ones you mourn. Weep. Cry. Laugh. Eat pints and pints of ice cream. Do an Irish Wake for them.
But know this, there is not one proper way to grieve. Don't put a time table on grief. Don't expect to fall in line with the 5 stages. This just ain't reality.
With my concluding thoughts, I would say that grief and the process in and of itself reminds me a lot of the ocean.
Waves come in and out. And this is much like the seasons of grief. In the spring, you may not miss them. On Thanksgiving, you're waiting for them to criticize the stuffing. Grief is like a wave. It comes in and out.
"Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
Much like learning to dance with a limp, you learn to swim. At times you may feel like drowning. You may feel the waves are trying to crush you, to pull you in. But yes, yes you, will swim. Not perfect strokes, not Olympic style swimming, maybe more like dog paddling. You learn to swim not because you have to, but because eventually you will want to. You could want to stay in bed for the rest of your days, but then you remember that person you lost. You say to yourself, "What would [blank] want me to do?"
My friend, they would want you to swim.
And so you swim on.
PS: If you ever want to talk it out, please let me know. I'm here.
All my love,