This post has resisted being written, or it’s felt like a slog through mud, but this is what I’m learning about grief at this point in my life. It seems like I haven’t experienced as much loss from the death of loved ones as most people my age have. Of course there are many other kinds of loss, like grieving a relationship “ideal” as it gets chipped away by reality over the years. Maybe that’s just growing up, but you do grieve the loss - sometimes slowly over time and at some points intensely.
What I’ve observed in myself and some others is a tendency to attach meaning to how our grief over the death of a loved one bubbles up, how debilitating it is, how long it lasts. There just seems to be something very automatic about this sort of evaluative process: “Look how devastated ______ is. They must have been so close,” or “Why am I not crying anymore? Do I not care?” or “Why is ________ so upset? It’s not like they were close,” etc. The fact that some of us cry more easily at movies than we do when our friends tell us about something devastating that’s happening to them (probably some fodder for therapy there). The awkward point for me is when someone who is still in the throes of deep grieving asks how I’m doing in regard to the loss of the same person and I’m like “I’m good.” It feels so incongruous to say, despite the fact that it’s ridiculous to think our grief would look the same.
My dad passed away early in May, barely four hours after being transferred to hospice. I’m so very grateful that I got to be there and interact with him for much of that afternoon and evening; that my sister and I both were there with him and my stepmom when he passed; that he didn’t linger with the worsening lethargy he’d chafed under for months prior; that a dear friend was serendipitously there with us, too. It’s a moment like no other, witnessing someone’s passing, and this was the first time for me. Tears came hard and readily in those last hours we shared and throughout the next day as family arrived and I watched my stepmom, my kids, family and friends grieve their loss in their individual ways. But then my tears seemed to just dry up. Even sorting his clothes didn’t bring any.
So this time around I’m trying to just let all that be there, just as it is; noticing when I start to attach meaning to my own grieving or others’, or when I become anxious about what meaning others might be attaching to mine, and just saying “Hello” to all of that. These two quotes were mentioned in the Focusing class I’m taking and I just hurriedly copied and pasted them here because the document was open. But the following morning I was struck by the synchronicity, because it’s what I’m discovering about grief, and many other emotions, at present:
We think more than we can say.
We feel more than we can think.
We live more than we can feel.
And there is much more still.
– Gene Gendlin
“I am the space where everything in me can be as it is.”
– Ann Weiser Cornell