Here’s the thing about grief.
You can’t ignore it. You can’t bury it. You can’t fill up your time in the hopes that one day, you’ll turn around and the grief will be gone. Grief will find a way out. Whether through tears or anger or resentment or bitterness, grief gets out. It will not be ignored.
I remember shortly after James died. I was sitting on the couch, and it occurred to me that I would feel this way – like a hole had been torn in me – for a long, long time. And I told myself that I needed to get comfortable with my grief. In my head, I envisioned myself snuggled in a warm sweater, holding a steaming cup of coffee, and snuggling down into a well-worn sofa. It’s odd that I would picture grief this way, but what I knew – what I understood – was that my grief wasn’t going anywhere, not for a long, long time. And I could ignore it. I could try to bury it. I could keep busy. Or I could become comfortable with the sadness.
We are not a patient society. And grief takes patience. It takes patience and a willingness to let it wash over you without fighting it. Because no matter how big the wave of grief, it always returns you to shore.
My mother and I were talking recently. I asked her why everyone in my family tries to ignore grief, tries to keep busy in the face of our losses. She said that it was because our family doesn’t like “drama” in their lives. It shocked me to hear her use the word drama. Drama isn’t how I would describe grief at all. Drama, to me, sounds self-inflicted. Grief is not drama. Grief is the emotional manifestation of a love that has been taken from us. Grief is a hole torn in your very being. It’s against your will, and over it, we have no control.
Lately, I think I have been trying to ignore my grief. I have thrown myself into projects – writing, speaking, considering a new business idea. And I’ve gone numb. But the grief slips out through the cracks. I know it’s there, and it’s waiting for me to acknowledge it and to deal with it.
Today, I made no plans. I sat on the porch and let the breeze blow over me. I marveled at the beauty of this late June day. I thought about grief and how incredibly inconvenient it is. No matter what, it’s always there. I can’t control it. I can’t heal it. I can do nothing but either try to ignore it in the hopes that the wound will magically heal itself or I can actively confront my grief.
Grief must be tended to heal. The wound must be cleaned daily. The bandage must be removed, taking all of that old scar tissue with it, exposing the healthy wound bed below it. Grief needs oxygen. Every day, for a long time, that bandage must come off.
Grief is scary. No one ever talks about that. It’s scary to realize the depth of your love and loss. It’s scary to realize that you can’t ignore it. Giving into your grief – giving it space and time and quiet is incredibly hard. I did well in the months after he died. I wrote. I drew. I cried. But now, I’m impatient. This should be over, right? I should be done with the intense grieving. It’s time for me to be better.
Today, I realized that it will be a long, long time before I am better. And I have to find a way to be ok with that. There is no timeline for this. Grief will be my constant companion for a long time, and I know this. It’s nothing of which to be frightened.
So maybe I won’t start a business. Maybe I won’t write a book right now. Maybe I’ll just accept that I need to feel my grief to the fullest so that I can start to move past this part of it – to the part where the memories bring a smile to my face and a lift to my heart.
Get comfortable with grief. Great grief means great love.