I am grieving a recent loss. It is so fresh, I don’t want to write about the actual loss. It has been less than two weeks. The particulars are still too painful, too sharp and in this case I am feeling the ripple effect of watching others I care about hurting too. In some ways it feels like it happened today, and in other ways it feels like it was 18 months ago. I can’t yet talk about it with any true wisdom or articulation. It will take some time until that happens.
But I can write about the grief. The grief feels familiar.
People often say “It’s a fog” when they grieve. I have said these exact words. But it’s not exactly accurate in my opinion. And I realize it is different for everyone and everyone has different circumstances and processes…but here is what I think it is…
Grief is not DABDA. The whole 5 steps of grieving…I don’t buy it. It’s not a straight line. It’s a scribble.
Grief is a pair of binoculars. It is a set of high magnification binoculars that are super glued to your face and brain. I would like to take them off but I can’t. Other people would like to take them off for me, but they can’t. 50% of it is a hyper clarity for the things directly in front of me. 20/10 vision. I am laser focused on few things and I can’t stop staring at them and ruminating on them and the other half, the peripheral vision is just gone for now. Completely missing-that’s the fog half.
Grief is an emotional brainwashing. I have developed a temporary emotional superiority complex as a result of grieving. (It feels familiar from my last loss) From some people I feel very separate. The concerns and laments of others seem trivial and petty and ridiculous. I know they are trivial for a fact because I was just that trivial, petty and ridiculous person a few days ago. Shallower and lighter and happier. To other people I feel an intense closeness. People who are missing what I am missing. People who are fixated on my fixations. People who know. These are my people right now. There is a weird, sad, inevitable kinship because they don’t expect much from me and I don’t expect much from them. The comfort of low expectations.
Grief is a sniper. Just when you think you are fine, it sneaks up on you. It has been following you, watching you all along, waiting for an inopportune moment to hit. I remember ten years ago I crumpled onto the ground at the mailbox after receiving the LL Bean catalog. I had been doing fine that day and the sight of a chamois shirt sale had catapulted me into uncontrolled hysteria because the chamois shirt lover in my life was gone. I would not ever order another chamois shirt. I shook my fist in the air that day. Damn you LL Bean and your mean spirited catalog mailing. I’m sure I looked absolutely crazy. I felt absolutely crazy.
Grief is a teacher. While I was just dumb a few days ago busying myself with the absolute MOST inane details of life, I’m slightly less dumb right now. Temporarily. I couldn’t give a crap about the school fundraiser. I won’t have lunch with anyone I don’t like. I will read the extra book at bedtime. The laundry can pile up. The errand can wait. I will forgive the minor irritations and mistakes. It’s not worth it. It never really was. I will leave nothing unsaid. I will fast track some plans. Do you want to know the only common thread that I have seen with people who pass away? They talk about their relationships. I have heard no mention of the time they got a promotion, the dream car they bought, the work, the stuff, the accolades, the disappointments. It’s always about the people and the time they spent with those people. The people matter. The people they loved. The people who love them.
Grief is 8th grade. It is long and ugly and the only way through it is through it and eventually it will get better. Like 8th grade, everyone is filled with useless platitudes about how to endure it because they simply don’t know what else to say. So, soon I will be dumb again. The sadness will be replaced by the gratitude, by the memories, by the gift of a wisp of enlightenment that it gives me. I will fill up on telling old stories from old experiences and work on making plans and making new memories for new stories. It won’t always feel like an open wound. Other people around me will not be limping around with their own pain. Eventually it will be more like an old sports injury. It will flare up from time to time but won’t be a bother on a constant basis. It will slowly become part of my story, part of who I am, part of the new normal.
Go easy on the people out there in the world. Go easy on your family and friends. Go easy on yourself. Enjoy the tiny micro moments of happiness when they occur in the simplest form for they will sustain you through grief.
You either know exactly what I am talking about… or
someday you will.