My wonderful high school choir teacher (and second mom to many) recently shared an article with me about grief and the process it forces those who experience it to go through. I wanted to share it with you here all as well:
Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.
I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love.
So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gorged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.
As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.
In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything… and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall.
And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.
Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.
- Author unknown
As mentioned in my previous post, I am having to take on a lot more grief and a lot more loss all at once than I ever expected I would have to do. Within the course of less than a week, my world was completely turned upside down. Oceans have been flooding my mind ever since, leaving me gasping for air and frantically searching for remnants of something - anything - to hold onto.
When you lose someone, especially when they were an essential part of your life (whether that loss be through death or otherwise), these remnants feel both increasingly difficult and easy to find. Grief is a paradox of the pain and joy that comes with remembering while also wanting to forget; a feeble attempt to make sense of truths that may never fully be answered in full.
I have found that, at least in these early stages, when I do manage to grasp onto something - Whether that’s a memory, a shred of hope, words of comfort, a physical object that has been left behind, etc. - It is often too painful to hold onto for longer than a few moments at a time.
Especially that whole “shred of hope” thing.
Hope is weird. It’s an emotion that is often supported by little to no real foundation, just your mind doing its best to comfort you and give you a reason to keep on keeping on. And while there are many things to hope for at a given time, I have found that each of those things brings a whirlwind of uncertainty and doubt along with it. The more you hope, the more tidal waves come crashing into your head as you spin through various realities and possibilities your mind is desperately trying to find a place for.
This cycle is painful yet necessary, as it helps you to sort through your needs versus wants, versus the inevitable truths of a given situation. That being said, I’m finding that once your wants have been cast aside, and these truths have been fully realized, certain hopes are more than worth holding out for - And these hopes are often true. Such as the hope that everything will feel alright again. Give it time; it will. Or the hope that you’ll find something better on the other side. Give it time; you will.
I’m still riding out these waves, and I imagine I will be for longer than I’d like to admit. But, I’m learning how to catch my breath, and am realizing I can tread water for much longer than I thought I’d be able to. These past few weeks have acted as an incredible reminder that our bodies will always know what they need to do to survive. The real challenge is in silencing the mind.
You might, like me, feel as though you’re just floating through life during this time, going through the motions, not really feeling anything - Because if you did, it would simply be too much. Though that thought can be terrifying, it’s important to realize that sometimes it’s necessary to just get you through the storm. You’ll find land eventually; and though you’ll likely wind up being cast to the shore, exhausted and soaked, using every last ounce of your strength just to pull yourself away from the water, you’ll begin to feel like yourself again.
You’ll begin to prepare for stepping out into the water once more.