I’ve started writing and deleted every word about a half a dozen times but this time, I believe I’m ready. Some words are simply more difficult to put together than others. Most of the time, words fall from my brain to the keyboard without much hesitation. This time is different. This time, the words are all jumbled in my mind and they want to come out and stay locked away all at the same time. Grief is an odd fellow.
Grief. Now there’s a word that doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. It just sits there. Self explanatory and yet, complicated beyond all measure. There’s a definition for it in good ol’ Webster’s dictionary (or Google for those of you who are too young to remember Webster);
Definition of grief
1a: deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement
this grief over his son’s death
b: a cause of such suffering
life’s joys and griefs
A deep and poignant distress… a cause of suffering, and yet, the word just hangs in the air and no one is really certain what to do with it. How to respond to it. More importantly, how to “do” grief.
We’ve all heard of the stages of grief:
- SHOCK & DENIAL
- PAIN & GUILT
- ANGER & BARGAINING
- “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS
- THE UPWARD TURN
- RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH
- ACCEPTANCE & HOPE
but grief rarely looks like this neat little package with a step-by-step process. I know, I’ve seen and experienced grief many times over. So how do you “do” grief? Well grief is certainly not a to-do list that gets checked off as each stage passes.
Here’s what I believe to be true. Grief is different for every person. The steps don’t always follow a nice neat program or pattern. Sometimes the steps of grief are all jumbled up and skipping around which can leave you feeling like you’ve lost your mind. One day your numb and in disbelief and the next you’re upbeat and hopeful for the future. Wake up another day and your begging for the tears to stop and angry about the whole damn thing.
Grief is not always instantaneous, sometimes grief is delayed. Take me for instance, with the passing of my mama, just a short three weeks ago, I thought I’d be grieving around the clock and I’m sure I am on some level, but it certainly hasn’t felt like what I’ve been made to understand about grief. I’ve cried, many, many times over the last few weeks, and I’ve felt lost without her more than once, but grief has not presented itself the way I would have expected.
I have had a lot to do since mama’s passing and I’m sure that’s created what I’m calling a ‘delay’ in the grief and grieving process. My mind can only seem to focus on what I need to get done to settle her estate, pay her bills, and muddle through a ton of her belongings. I’ve actually asked myself if I’m even grieving yet. Am I? Is this what grief looks like for me? IS this even normal? Here’s what I’m discovering; there is not one way to grieve. Grief comes in as many different forms as there are grains of sand on the beach.
Grief is not a one-size-fits-all. I don’t care what the so called experts say, grief is personal and individualized and it doesn’t always include every step. Hell, sometimes it doesn’t even have any of the steps. Other times, it’s all the steps in one fell swoop. There is not one way to grieve. There are hundreds, maybe millions, of ways to go through grief. I saw that in my own family members when mama passed. Some cried, some wailed, some were quiet, some were loud, some laughed (*gasp*), others told jokes (*oh the horror*), a few couldn’t be there, some couldn’t talk about her, a few were rattling off what keepsakes they wanted, BUT, each of them were dealing with the loss, the emotions, the tidal wave of death in the best way they knew how, and that is okay.
Grief is not an over and done. There is no time limit as to when you should be finished grieving. Way back in the day, when a woman lost her husband she was expected to wear black, her mourning clothes, for a certain amount of time, sometimes as long as two years. No one told her she had grieved long enough or that she needed to move on and stop sulking around. Now I’m sure there were those who felt that two years was just waaay to long and wanted to get on with their life, but that’s not the point. The point is, grieving doesn’t have an expiration date, a use by date, or a length of time that’s appropriate. It’s a process. It’s personal. No one can tell you how long you will need to grieve or even what it should look like. This is one you get to decide and tell those who want to tell you how to do it to just go to…well, lets not wish that on anyone, but you know what I mean.
Grief is not about a pattern. I wish I could walk through the steps of grief and distinguish each one and know the next one is coming. That would certainly help me. Oh look, I’m angry and bargaining, great! That means depression and lonely are up next. Moving right along and this grieving should be over really soon. What happens instead? There are the days when I run the gamete and experience all sorts of crazy and I’m angry, then I’m hopeful; I’m in disbelief, then lonely, reflective then in pain, all at the same freaking time, or at least it feels like that. That’s how grief is. I don’t believe it follows a step and that each step waits it’s turn. You know, like pain and guilt are just milling around in your heart and head waiting for shock and disbelief to be finished so they can take their turn. NO. Grief can be so many things all at one time or nothing at all for awhile. How ever you need to get through what you’re experiencing is OK (well, as long as you’re not wanting to hurt yourself or others, ya know?).
All of that to say this. I’m learning, first-hand, about grief. It SUCKS, but we are all going to experience it at some point in our life. If you take nothing else away from this, I hope you remember this one thing: Grief is hard. It’s painful, it’s lonely, its all sorts of things, but it’s not something you can learn to do. It isn’t something someone else can tell you how to do or when to stop doing it. You just get up each day and get through it the best way you know how and do it in whatever way you need to. There is no right or wrong way to grieve (so we already talked about the unless you want to hurt yourself or someone else…just don’t do grief like that, OK?).
Love and miss you mama! You were always my biggest fan!