On grief

February 19, 2013

My son asked me what grief feels like, almost as if he knew. It’s strange entering that part of life where you have gathered so many life experiences that you begin to teach life experiences to your children.

Today as I am writing about grief I write about it for all of us. We have all lost someone… somewhere along our journeys. Some more than others, some more traumatically, some expected. It’s something we collect as we go through our lives and as we collect grief through loss we realize that quite literally…. we are all in this together. It’s never the same for each of us and at the same time, its common ground. Regardless of who we have lost or when we have lost them, or even how… I think we all can agree. It’s never gets better, only further away.

This isn’t meant to be sad. Nothing happened. I know it happens to you too, and know you aren’t alone in this experience.

For me…. grief hits in the middle of the night. Every so often. Like two nights ago. I wake up suddenly feeling like there is an elephant sitting on my chest. I am breathing rapidly and my bottom lip quivers. I breathe to hold back tears and I tense up every muscle in my body as if I am fighting or as if I am hearing the news for the first time.

And it might have happened twelve years ago. Or twenty. It’s never for one person… it’s collective. A collective crushing. I never know what brings it on and I never know when it will strike. Once a month, once every few months. Maybe six months.

It happens rarely enough that I know to pay attention to it when it happens and not try to run. You don’t always get over things…. you just kind of get through them. I have to get up out of bed, because it’s nothing I really need to wake my husband up for. It’s just something that happens. I go downstairs, have some water and lay down on the couch.

My dog seems to know what to do. She will just come lay next to the couch on the floor. Like she knows I don’t need to be held I just need someone nearby until it passes.

Sometimes I think of memories. My Grandmother sitting at her kitchen table while we are coloring eggs. My Grandfather showing us his photography. The hug she gave me at the race before she died. Our last phone call. Did I tell him I loved him? Was she happy? Did he feel anything?

Memories bring back tears and rip the scab right off and I realize the wound is just as fresh and just as deep. And I think of that scene in Forrest Gump …. the one where Jenny returns to her childhood home and throws rocks at it. Forrest says “Sometimes there just aren’t enough rocks.”

That’s how I feel about death and cancer and unfair things. Like I want to hurl rocks and there are never enough. I don’t know what I hurl them at either, I just wind up and throw. For some reason the thought of throwing eases the pain and soothes the grief to a point. I don’t know how to fight against things bigger than me. But I want to. I want to fight back with everything I have.

The entire next day I feel reminded and grateful and sad. I hate when it hits me and I am so glad that it does. Take nothing for granted. I will wonder who God is and feel my faith is returning. There are many times I feel faithless and yet faithful. Sometimes I walk in the back of the line and other times I lead it.

The answer to the question “What does grief feel like?” doesn’t come easy. It feels like hole in your heart that you will always have. It feels like you miss someone so bad and it never fades. It means you don’t understand the world and why things happen and you carry around some anger and some peace and a lot of faith and questions that are not answered.
I never want him to feel grief but I know he will. I just don’t want him to ever feel it for me. At least not for a long time.

For now though we just get through it. We don’t ever have to get over it. We drop down the walls of pretending that we don’t understand. Grief is grief. No two journeys are the same yet they have the same theme…. and we are never alone. Unless we choose to be. And why choose to be? What does that earn you?

While we can’t fix it for each other we can hold hands, pat each other on the back, give that code type of smile and agree… that yes this sucks sometimes. It sucks a lot. But we will get through.

And we will throw as many rocks as we need to.


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