“Grief is as necessary as joy. It comes inconveniently, often catches us unprepared, but we understand that a full, rich life experiences both ends of the spectrum.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard, The Art of the Possible
Recently, a woman told me she’d also lost her boyfriend. He died.
So, yes, she knows grief. But, she had to put it out of her mind so she could get on with life.
Each person chooses her path and I can’t say she’s wrong.
However, in my life, grief grabbed me, shook me, shattered me, and dared me to look directly at it.
That’s where I found the gifts of grief, the metamorphosis of myself, and the place from which I’m rising as a woman transformed.
I get why people don’t want to get into the grief. They can see what a mess it causes.
Tears in public places? No, thanks. Being dragged down? No, stand tall!
Be strong. Don’t let it beat you.
It’s a passage, like adolescence or menopause, or maybe a mid-life crisis.
We must go into the mess in order to get to the metamorphosis.
My friend’s daughter is 17, just on the verge of adulthood. Not many months ago, she claimed she was already an adult and couldn’t relate to kids her age.
Now, she’s decided she doesn’t want to be an adult. In fact, she wants to go back to being a baby.
Yes, I’d like to go back to being the happy woman I was in May of 2014, sunning on Big Daddy’s boat on Lake St. Louis, gushing with gratitude for how great my life felt.
Unfortunately, I can’t unknow falling in love with my man Fire and him being put out of this life.
Often, we want to be in a different stage from the one we’re in.
We’re single; we want to be married. When a teenager, we’d rather be an adult. As our kids ready to leave home; we wish them younger and still contained by our love.
When we’re in the thick of grief, we crave the hole in our heart be filled with yesterday’s joy.
Of course, there are extremes, like the widow who keeps her husband’s clothes hanging in their closet 20 years after his death, clinging to what can no longer be.
But, who’s to say? What’s the timeline? There isn’t one.
On a recent episode of my favorite show This Is Us, it was the 20-year anniversary of Jack, the father’s death. Each of his children and his wife found a different way to deal with the memory. (Spoiler alert.)
Every year, his wife makes lasagna. She spends the day cooking and eating alone, even though she’s now married to another man.
One son does his best to ignore the day. Like him, I’ve tried that in the past (unsuccessfully).
If only December 10th, the day my brother died and the day my mom was diagnosed with cancer, could be removed from calendars!
On the show, the daughter beats herself up with guilt every year and chooses to be melancholy. While on the surface this may sound like a poor choice, she needs to indulge in her feelings.
Sometimes, it’s diving in that allows us to resurface stronger.
On the opposing mindset is the other son, who leaps into celebration mode, throwing a Super Bowl party and going overboard with determination to create big fun.
Trying to overpower grief can catch us off guard. When his daughter’s pet lizard dies, Randall ends up turning the party into a funeral too somber for children and a lizard.
When it comes to how to handle our grief, there’s no right way.
There is, however, a call for courage: to admit the mess, allow the loss to transform us, learn our individual lessons, and especially, the courage to love again—not just another person, but life itself.
When we see, feel, and honor our grief, we can grow into more awake and compassionate people.
We become intimately aware that some of the people we love will pass on, leaving a missing piece in the picture of our lives.
The death of a loved one can feel like none of the pieces fit and life is a puzzle that can’t be solved.
But, if we’re willing to let the pieces fall and scatter, when we go to pick them up, we may discover a new picture.
When that time comes, we’re not over the loss. We’re transformed and made new in the face of it.
We more clearly see others in the process and allow space for them to find their way.
This Is Us—all of us, dealing with grief the best way we know how. And that’s enough.