Kelleys Island, Ohio. Three days, six women, one bathroom. On day one, I decided this was going to be a nightmare. I needed to get out of there. There wouldn’t be enough alcohol.
I was wrong—not just about the alcohol. Five of the six women have experienced grief due to the death of a close loved one: a husband who committed suicide, a son killed in Iraq, my sister’s husband—cancer, another woman’s long-term boyfriend died of cancer this past February, making my March loss of the greatest love of my life due to a heart attack in his sleep almost seem trivial. Almost. Nothing could, but I certainly gained a grander perspective witnessing these women walking with their own grief.
I found it interesting the one gal who hasn’t grappled with this brand of grief spent much of her time trying to plan where we’d go, what we’d do, and creating more questions about a dinner menu than I could imagine. Her plan, plan, plan mentality seemed to have her missing the present moment.
Maybe that’s one of the gifts of grief: plans fly into the wind. Yet, life goes on. The women whose losses were further in the rearview mirror held a higher perspective, though not necessarily better.
I mean, my God! It’s not like anyone ever gets over wanting all of her son’s body parts to come home. Yet, that particular woman has grown more grounded since the first and only time I met her two years prior. Looking at her, I see both grief and growth reveal themselves in one’s face, eyes, and even her gait.
By the way, this wasn’t a grief group. My sister met one of the women while working in Cleveland—back when Jayne’s husband was diagnosed and dancing towards death. That’s when Jayne and Barb become friends. The other gals are her friends.
I call them mine after three days, one bathroom, plenty of beers, tears and laughter. They may not know it, but they helped me heal by reminding me: I’ll take my own crap—thank you very much.
Even the gal death hasn’t walked so close to, but who liked to talk about her hardships while professing God’s angels on our paths. I believe her, but I couldn’t see where she embraced or embodied the lessons she seemed bent on impressing upon us.
Maybe I used to be like that, I thought. Then, she told me she’d never been loved. She repeated it. Do we demand love come only in a particular form? What about her friends, right there, right now, in front of her?
The daughter of one of these women is going blind. Maybe we’re all blind to certain things.
Grief gives me new eyesight. With each blow, I need a stronger prescription to see from my heart.
These three days, these women, what a gift they gave me. I reawakened to the reality of other people’s pain, each of us serving a purpose, and how grief can be a gift for growth.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m the gal who opened far too many gifts and then my big mouth with, “Is this returnable?” There are no gifts I’d rather return than the ones coming out of Kevin’s death. It still sucks.
When the ladies and I went to the winery, I bawled in the bathroom because my man and I talked about going to a winery, but we never went. There I was with these women when the only place I wanted to be was with the one I love who’s no longer here.
This time though, I didn’t come out sniffling, or worse, denying so I didn’t have to deal with pity. Nor did I come with the need to explain my pain to people who only want it to go away. With these women, I didn’t say a word. They already know.