Grief is such a funny thing. Perhaps one of the most written about emotions, yet very seldom do we read something that really resonates with the innermost core of our being. And of course, what makes sense to my grieving heart may not make sense to yours.
One thing we do all share, while stumbling through this process, is that we desperately try and rationalize events, thoughts and emotions that seem completely irrational. Maybe you drink too much, maybe you cry at the drop of a hat, maybe you hole up for days at time, maybe you do all three or none of those at all. Music, books, booze – all are just temporary coping mechanisms. There is no short cut. People tell you to keep up your strength, it will get better, and numerous other clichés too tired to repeat.
If you have truly lost a piece of your soul, it never gets “better,” just different. You find a new normal, not because you want to, but because you have to, in order to survive. But the path to a new normal is not a straight line. I’ll go a week without crying then I’m in tears for three straight days. Memories affect you differently on Wednesday than they do on Saturday evening when you’ve let your guard down. The same picture that triggered a physically-painful-fetal position-breakdown one day, maybe only inspires a fond smile when you see it next. Grief is one of the hardest emotions to describe or categorize because, as anyone going through it knows, it’s not just sadness surrounding a departed loved one’s absence. It’s sadness they are no longer physically present, it’s anger that they left too soon, it’s guilt over unsaid things, it’s learning to forgive, and learning to understand that no amount of “what ifs” that you drive yourself crazy with will ever bring them back. That’s just to name a few of the many layers and facets of something that is ever changing and vastly different for everyone.
But if you’re lucky, maybe you find something that speaks to you. Something that lets you be proud of the fact that, in spite of it all, you are still here, trying, one minute at a time. A small sliver of light breaking through the clouds.
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Finally, today I saw a sliver. The above quote made me realize that it’s not about looking/feeling/pretending to be “ok,” that’s an unattainable pedestal at this point. It’s about growth. I’m not afraid of much after feeling the worst pain imaginable, after looking fear square in the face.
Not to say as though I feel invincible, quite the opposite. Realizing your humanity alone is, in itself, a step towards the new normal. Grief has a way of making things inexplicably clear, quickly revealing our true selves, priorities, and those we can count on as we pave the path. One brick at a time.