I’m not trying to be morbid here, just real, because this is something that affects us all. My husband and I got married almost three years ago. Can I just say that I love being married to that guy? And I feel like our relationship has been really blessed. That being said, it’s also been three very, very hard years in terms of just about everything else. I’m not going into it now, but those of you who know me know some of the story. I also have some really sweet friends who have had to face things that make me weep. I don’t understand the meaning of it all.
What I do understand is this: a lot of people, especially people who are youngish and haven’t gone through a life-altering loss yet, don’t really get grief.
So let’s talk about it.
Grief is not sadness. They are related, but sadness is fluff compared to grief. As you move further away in time- from that person or thing that you lost, the event- sadness lurks quietly behind the laughter, behind the other things that come to occupy your time. Ideally, it’s there, but it’s not demanding your full attention. It changes you, maybe for the better, as you live with it and learn to be happy despite it’s continual prescence. It’s like a constant weight, and knowing how to counter-balance it properly makes you stronger. People tell you how strong you are, and that seems ridiculous at first because they have no idea how not okay you feel. But as you learn to live with it, you realize that you are actually pretty “strong.” You must be.
Moments of true grief strike differently, I think. They take priority after a loss, but once sadness fills in they start to come further apart. You’ll be going about your life, balancing the past and future, sadness and pleasure, then, suddenly, it hits. Someone says something or you see an object or smell a fragrance that brings up a memory. Suddenly, an iron fist has your heart, and you can’t breathe. It’s like your eyelids are peeled backward and you are forced to see things, feel things, that hurt too much. It’s a nightmare that you have to experience. Again. You are forced to acknowledge the realness of this gaping hole that was made in your life, that was made in the person you used to be.
How does the heart keep beating?
The moment passes.
You can breath again. Sort of. No one around you even knew. As time has passed, you’ve learned not to mention it anymore, not to cry, not to miss a beat in the conversation. You look at your watch, maybe. It only lasted a few seconds. Felt like forever.
Life pushes new things at you every second. You can’t live in the past, or you’ll miss it. People tell you this all the time in response to your grief. They may say, “Don’t be sad. Life is too short.” People may be uncomfortable with you. People may force you to act differently than how you feel.
And that’s okay. They may not understand, but they do have a point. You can’t live in the dark forever.
Even so, don’t be fooled. Sadness is not weakness. Moments of grief are not weakness. They mean, “This happened, and it changed everything. This mattered.” There is nothing wrong with sadness. There is nothing wrong with experiencing grief. So let yourself hurt when you need to hurt, but also learn how to heal. Let yourself learn how to come through the dark and then back to the light again. Don’t force the pain in the closet, bring it out into the room and let the happy things in life crowd around it, making a glorious mess.
In my opinion?
Grief is complicated. Life is complicated. You are complicated.
To quote Forrest Gump: “That’s all I have to say about that.”