I know. It’s heavy, right? But here’s the thing: grief touches our lives – all our lives – at some point or another. And it often happens several times over during a lifetime. It’s a mysterious thing that affects each of us in different ways.
We grieve for different reasons. I grieved over the loss of a priceless family heirloom that went missing with several boxes full of other things in a move. My best friend grieved when her only daughter moved away from home, leaving her with an empty nest. Another friend grieved over her lost job. I grieved for a twelve-year friendship with a toxic person I had to cut out of my life. We grieve lost pets. And we grieve departed family members.
My dad passed away about two and a half months ago. Today would have been his 92nd birthday. He had a good, long life and at the end, he was tired, at peace, and ready to go. His hospital room was full of people who loved him: my mom, nearly all their grandchildren, my siblings and me, and most of our spouses. Dad was lucid until about a day and a half before he passed, so we were all able to communicate with him, to tell him how much we loved him, and he was able to tell each of us that he loved us and was proud of us. It might be a weird thing to say about someone you love dying, but it was beautiful. I know without a doubt that he felt nothing but love and support from his family in his final days. I’m incredibly grateful for this.
We should all be so lucky. That’s how death should be, shouldn’t it? A person should get to live to be old, and then die peacefully, surrounded by love.
But death is still death. Loss is loss. And the grief is real. We have to allow ourselves to feel it, acknowledge it, let it run its course.
Six years ago, my oldest brother passed away. He was only in his fifties. And we all thought he’d outlive everyone. He’d always seemed invincible. His enormous presence filled a room. He was charming and charismatic, and could tell stories that would make you laugh until tears poured. He was a big, shining presence in all our lives and everyone in our family was absolutely floored and gutted by his loss.
One of the hardest things about his death was that we all felt like he wasn’t done. He had unfinished business, demons yet to conquer, secrets that went with him to the grave. He was not at peace. He was not ready to go.
The contrast between these two losses is obvious.
To lose someone who should still have decades left here with us is a more painful loss. There’s no denying that. It adds an extra level, an element of difficulty to the grieving process.
But, for the most part, the grief I’m experiencing now, after the loss of my dad, feels very much the same in a lot of ways. I’m having difficulty focusing on anything for any length of time. I have barely touched my trilogy that I’m working on because of a crippling case of writer’s block that set in when my dad went into the hospital for the last time. My energy levels are low even though I’m doing everything “right”: eating a mostly vegetable-based diet (organic, of course!); exercising regularly; allowing tears to flow when they need to; and all that good, healthy stuff. I have little interest in anything that’s going on around me. It just sort of feels like I’m living in a heavy, gloomy cloud.
I guess the grief just needs to run its course. And I have to let it. I’ve read that the grieving process after the loss of a loved one takes, on average, a year. In fact, when I was grieving for my brother, it did take about a year for me to feel like myself again. I’ll never stop missing him, and sometimes tears fill my eyes when I see a picture of him, or I’ll see a vintage muscle car drive by and I wish I could just snap a picture of it on my phone and text it to him. I don’t think that part ever goes away.
But the heavy, gloomy cloud eventually dissipates. It gets easier to breath again. And you start to take an interest in your surroundings again.
Right now, I’m in the thick of grieving for my dad. It’s sunk in now that I won’t ever get to see him again in this lifetime. I’m sad and anhedonic. Life feels disjointed and aimless. I want to work on my book, but words just won’t come.
But I think that’s ok. That’s the grief doing its thing.
Friends, I’m so sorry: my posts are usually upbeat and light-hearted, and this one is SO not. But I just wanted to put into words what is happening right now in my life. As the Bard put it:
“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.” –Shakespeare, Macbeth
So I gave my sorrow words. I’m grateful for the creative outlet that is blogging. Writing about random things in short bursts has been wonderfully therapeutic!
Anyway, if you’re still reading, thank you. I’ll close with these beautiful words by one of my most loved heroes: Maya Angelou…
“And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”