I’m pretty sure I’ve uttered the phrase, ‘there just isn’t a handbook for something like this,’ at least eleventy billion times in the past few weeks.
And thank goodness there isn’t because guess what?! I’d be doing it wrong. Grief is so weird. Like, straight-up unadulterated kind of weird. But it’s so good. It’s so healthy and exactly what we’re allowed to experience in the midst of loss, no matter how sudden or extreme.
I remember experiencing my first real grief as a five-year-old. My Grandma Ruby had passed away the day after I turned five (thanks for waiting, Ruby Mae) and It wasn’t so much about the loss of my grandma – although that was so hard – no, it was more about watching my mom react to the loss of her mom. I remember feeling so very sad and at that age, I’d say you really don’t know what to do with it quite yet.
As I grew up, I lost quite a few more close family members and even friends. Loss became sort of commonplace and in my family, we learned to deal with our emotional upheaval by way of humor. It was likely our misguided way of coping with the pain, but it was also an emotion that triggered some level of peace and obviously, joy, even if for a moment. My Aunt Kathy is the queen of laughter through the tears. My mom’s sister even apologized to me recently after she’d made some jokes about a lizard she thought I might take the wrong way. She didn’t realize at the time just how much I needed a smile.
Then, when my Grandpa Lowman died, I experienced an even deeper sense of grief. He was just that special to me and I still get sad (and cry sometimes) when I think about what a punk he was. Oops, there’s that humor thing again.
But grief in all of its weirdness really entered my life in the year leading up to and almost all of three following my divorce. I’ve heard that the stages of grief you experience during and after a divorce are much like those upon someone’s death. To be clear, not the same. But, similar. I had waves of emotions that, now, looking back, presented me with an opportunity to truly know who I was and who I was meant to become.
So I guess I’m thankful.
And that’s the weird part. I experienced those grief stages in such a visceral way that I’ve been able to just sit with my friends who are experiencing these recent losses and see them on that path; just allowing themselves to feel. At times, there are tears; others anger and even still others, humor. It comes in such waves. But it’s good. Because when we allow ourselves to feel, we allow the process of healing to take place.
But healing doesn’t erase the pain. It doesn’t change what’s happened and it doesn’t create a false sense of ‘getting over’ anything. It’s more about acceptance, in my opinion. When we get to that point that we can accept an event, of any magnitude, that causes grief, we can realize that as much as it hurts and as much as we wish it hadn’t have happened that we will, in fact, grow and even change as a result of it. And when someone else experiences their own waves, we can just sit with them, listen and pray for the healing to begin.