I’ve been thinking about this post off and on for a while. Ironically, a co-worker and I started talking about grief the other day and this post popped back into my mind. It’s one that is hard to articulate because grief is a very complex experience for each person. It really doesn’t matter if you are a working mom or a working dad when you are experiencing the loss of a loved one. So, here goes….
About 2 weeks following my sister’s death in 2007, I was asked if I was over it and if the void of her loss had subsided. After 2 weeks! At the time, I was mad. Things were foggy. The feeling of loss was fresh. I was grieving.
When people talk about grief, it’s often discussed like it’s something you get over, like the flu. Take two aspirin, get some rest and you’ll feel better soon. It’s not that simple. What I realized is the people that give that kind of advice have not suffered loss. That is OK. They just don’t know, I mean really know.
It’s been almost 4 years since I became part of the “Grief Club”. While I still experience difficult times missing my sister, I have a more peaceful understanding of grief and how I’ve learned to live with loss. To me, that’s really what happens. You learn to live differently than you were living prior. I’m still learning…
Look down at your thumb. Yep, take a minute to stare at the lines and dents that make up your thumbprint. It’s yours. It’s unique to you. Grief is very much like that thumbprint that belongs only to you and no one else. If you are grieving, only you know how you feel. Only you know how you are managing it. Only you know your pain no matter how long it has been.
When loss is new and fresh, it’s very easy to get caught up in getting over it. We try to get back to “normal”. I definitely tried. Grief was this thing I had to fight and get past.
You may have heard or read about the stages of grief and death– anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. The stages don’t make up a linear progression and they don’t necessarily define each individual’s grief experience. I think of them now as a loose way to put a label on something that is pretty hard to label.
I fought to get over the grief and move on to the next thing that life was throwing my way. I can describe it now as my fog. I look back at decisions I made personally and projects I completed at work in utter amazement. I was on auto pilot and flying in foggy skies. Yet, I managed to make it through. Maybe those stages should include “survival mode”.
As I sat with my friend at work talking about grief the other day, she told me about her husband who lost a brother and how he describes his grief as a badge he wears. It’s part of him. It’s his unique thumbprint.
I thought that was so inspiring because (much like him) when my foggy skies turned back to sunshine, I realized that grief was not an adversary to beat or get over. What became clear is that eventually the grief some of us choose to fight in the beginning becomes the grief that walks with us.
She told me how he described his grief as a badge. I describe mine as something that walks with me. It’s a comfort. It’s peace. It’s mine.
My grief walks with me each and every day. It’s a a part of who I am, who I have become and who I will be as I grow older.
You’ve probably heard the saying “Time heals all wounds”. While I don’t think the wound of losing a loved one (no matter what role that person played in your life) ever heals, in time, we learn to live with that wound, that loss.
In time and maybe without realizing it, we allow our grief to walk with us. You can find comfort in the fact that it’s there when you think of past memories and smile. You know it’s there beside you on the tougher days when you miss that person and cry.
It can guide us and help us find our way much like our loved ones would do if they were here walking with us today…
How have you managed living with loss or grief? Your story may help another.