I have learned a lot of things about grief in the last 2 years. Things that I didn’t know before grief came barreling into my life. Things that Webster won’t tell you. That people in general won’t tell you. And while I’m not sure that there is such a thing as being prepared for grief, I do think there’s value in recognizing what you’re up against. What we’re all up against. So…I will tell you.
It is all consuming.
Nothing in life after loss is spared the wrath of grief. Everything, and I mean everything, changes. Perceptions. Opinions. Emotions. Reactions. Beliefs. Attitudes. Expectations of the world around you. Of people in general and of those whom you love. Priorities change. Those who knew you in the before, may not recognize you in the after. And not just casual relationships or old friends. We’re talking Husbands. Wives. Parents. Children. Sisters. Brothers. Lifelong friends. Grief has the power to change every relationship.
It is exhausting.
No amount of rest or relaxation or sleep is any match for a grieving mind. I’d write more about this one, but I’m too damn tired.
It is terrifying.
So many times I’ve thought and said, “What if I never get better? What if I’m never happy again?” I still don’t know the answer to those questions. And guess what? Neither does anyone else. Also, they may look at you with psychiatric concerns in their eyes if you ask. Which leads me to the next thing grief is…
It is alienating.
People share in your sadness. For a while. Then they move one. All at a different pace and in different ways, but they move on. And even those who love you and mean well, often just don’t know how to “handle” the griever. They don’t know what to do or say. And you know what seems to be the next logical step for most people? Just don’t do or say anything. It’s a matter of their comfort level. As if they could make anything worse. Please. I’ve buried my daughter. I can handle anything you can say. Just say SOMETHING! But the vast majority of people around you will choose silence instead. And it’s lonely. We watch them move one. And we stay.
It is unique and individualized.
I’m not going to grieve like you and you aren’t going to grieve like me. People told me that my husband and I would grieve differently. I didn’t really know what it meant, until it happened. And when it happened, it was undeniable. I don’t really know how to explain it other than to say that you will recognize it when it hits your marriage upside the head. I had so many moments of intense disconnection from him because we were simply in different places, with different needs, and different feelings.
It is inconsistent.
I want people. I want to be alone. I need to laugh. I want to cry. I’m tired. I can’t sleep. I want another baby. I don’t want anyone but her. I’m feeling better. I feel worse than ever. Today is not so bad. I hate today. Hi, how are you? Screw you. Don’t talk to me. Where are you going? I could go on and on. I could stop here.
It’s not all bad.
I’m still very much learning about this one. And I’m sure I will write more on this when I know more about it. And although I wish every moment of every day that my daughter was here – losing her is changing me. And it’s not all bad. I find that I’m more grateful. I move through life more slowly. A little more observant and appreciative. It’s new and still a little icky for me. I guess because it treads dangerously close to the everything happens for a reason crap. But I have a dear friend who often tells me that there is grace to be found. That out of this awful, unjust, unimaginable pain – there is grace to be found. The more I learn, the more I think she may be right.
This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but something changed for me when I started acknowledging these things as a product of grief, rather than proof of my own personal brokenness. When I can recognize grief in my life, I can stop the exhausting fight against it. When I know what it looks like, I can make efforts to embrace it. British novelist, George Elliot once wrote ““She was no longer wrestling with the grief, but could sit down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her thoughts.”
To sit calmly with my grief. Oh, how lovely that must be. One day. In the meantime, what are you learning about grief?