The Nature of Grief

We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey.
          ~Kenji Miyazawa

This week my Alaskan friends and colleagues mourn the passing of lives lost in last week’s terrible company plane crash. There will be memorial services, celebrations of life, small gatherings, tears, stories and many, many hugs.

I’m not there, instead, I’m back home in Seattle. While I’m deeply saddened at so many amazing lives cut short, I’m also reflecting on the nature of grief. This post is more personal than obituary in nature.

For me, and for so many of my friends, the past couple of years have been amazingly difficult. We’ve lost parents, siblings, homes, jobs and I – I’ve lost my husband. Grief has touched us all, a nightmare time of trying to find our way in the dark.

There are places in the heart that do not yet exist; suffering has to enter in for them to come to be.
          ~Leon Bloy

Everyone’s grieving is different. Some collapse in tears, some curl up in a ball, some get angry, some march on stoically and some try to take care of everyone else. (In case anyone could possibly be confused on this point, I’m one of the latter.) There’s no one right way to express loss, to be sad, to ‘do’ grief – there’s only the way each of us figures it out as we go, groping in the dark.

And yet, being a caretaker type doesn’t mean that my loss doesn’t hurt. Intensely. It just means I’m more concerned with taking care of everyone else’s potential pain and discomfort than I am with expressing or dealing with any sorrow or grief of my own. My role, as I see it, is to keep my life, my family, and the various enterprises I manage moving forward smoothly and agreeably. Sure, we can briefly acknowledge human frailty and work/life balance, but in the long run, we keep going because that’s all I know how to do.

And keeping on keeping on becomes a habit. It’s not dishonest, you know, when I say with a self-deprecating smile, “It’s ok, it’s been a while, it doesn’t really bother me to bring it up.” Just talking about Bryan in casual conversation isn’t all that difficult, although it’s been a whole hell of a lot harder journey than I typically acknowledge.

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
          ~William Shakespeare

So yeah – I will admit that I understate it. A lot. Grief is supremely sneaky and overwhelmingly hard, and there are times when the sorrow and the anguish and the loss punch me in the gut so painfully I forget how to breathe. There are dark nights when I wake up in in a cold, lonely bed and bargain, dry-eyed, with a distant and unresponsive god for it to have been just a nightmare. (He/she doesn’t answer.)

Thanks to my beloved friends and family members who have been there at any time, day or night, when the unbearable details of grief have overwhelmed me. You’ve helped me preserve what little tatters are left of my sanity and I am forever grateful. You are my evidence that it was not, actually, a nightmare after all.

Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief.
         ~Marcus Tullus Cicero

And for those that mourn the passing of Dana Tindall, Corey Tindall, William Phillips and Senator Ted Stevens, I wish you the same kind of love, friendship, family and caring I’ve had to carry me through my loss. Nothing on earth can make this tough time any easier, but the support of loved ones can make it more bearable.

One Response to “The Nature of Grief”

  1. mattw Says:

    I tend to push the grief away and use humor to deal with things. Brandi dwells on it and seems to make it a personal thing, so that it becomes difficult for me to do anything for her. We just passed the second anniversary of the loss of our second child in utero, and so I’ve had to really handle Brandi with kid gloves.