The Tides of Grief
People tend to describe grief as coming in waves.
It ebbs and flows, coming and going on the moon’s call both graceful and violent. The tide comes in, bringing with it signs of things that have come and gone – only shells of themselves – and then makes its way back out to a place so expansive that you wonder if it ever ends.
Powerful. Vast. Almost hopeless.
In all of these perspectives we’re portrayed as being at the mercy of those waves – hoping for just enough of a break that we can collect ourselves, regain our breath, and prepare for the next round. There are many times, though, that we find ourselves surprised. A wave sneaks up on us the moment we let our guard down enough to try and experience the world around us and takes us out to sea… a rip tide certain to bring us back to depths we had fought so hard to climb our way back from. This is real life grief.
Picture yourself there now – waves crashing around you, seagulls gliding in the coastal wind. Stand at the edge of the water and feel both the wonder and power of those waves, and inevitably experience feeling like you’re drowning in the guilt and hopeless that grief can be. But what if you’re not yourself here?
Some of us are a tree on the edge, absorbing the crash and wind and swaying back and forth while your roots hold strong to stabilize your world. Tall and proud, able to protect yourself by virtue of a tough exterior while stretching up to the heavens to feel every bit of sunshine your children are sending you. Sometimes I feel more like a walk having been pushed ashore. It takes a strong wave to move me, but when it does I go tumbling as long as it wants me to. No matter how hard I try or what I say and do, I’m stuck in that spot until the right one comes and I hope that it puts me back where I belong.
At some point you look around and see familiar faces but wonder who they are talking to – you realize grief has changed you. You don’t look or feel the same as you once did because grinding has forced you to focus in other places… The days are many where I do my best to look and move like the person everyone recognizes but me.
The hardest part for me to understand at this point is who and what exactly I am now. Have I been ground down enough to blend in with the sand? Have I been pushed up far enough into the beach that I’ll stay there forever, waiting for someone to pick me up and throw me back in? Maybe, just maybe, all of the things I’ve experienced since losing my children has softened my heart in ways that I can feel them in ways other people can’t. And maybe rolling along the sand these last two years hasn’t scratched and clawed at me or exposed my cracks, but has actually polished me up enough that they can find me.
Maybe the next child who finds me will be the one to stay.
I find that the tide doesn’t come in as far if I focus on the process. If I keep their memory alive by living lessons I would have taught instead of spending so much time thinking about this moment without them. I hold tight to the hope that I’m both small enough to fit in that child’s pocket but strong enough to withstand the grinding that happens every day. If I can outlast it, I’ll shine bright enough that they can find me on my darkest of days.