Grief never ends… but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…it is the price of love.
I found this on Facebook yesterday and it struck a chord. I have been counseling a few dear friends who have lost loved ones during the last year and doing my best to be of comfort and value to them during such a transition of magnitude.
The closing thought of this aphorism is so poignant…. Grief is the price of love.
That is so true. Whether the grief comes at a time of death, or just the end of a relationship that is not caused by death, it is still the end of the relationship as it currently stands.
When we are facing this monumental chapter in life, there really are no words. No solutions. No anything. It is all encompassing, and so overwhelming that it feels as if a tidal wave has smashed us and we are left trying to fight our way back to the surface of the water, to gasp for breath. As soon as we are able to do so, another wave smashes us again. This continues for quite some time.
I would not say that it gets easier. That is inaccurate. I would say that eventually, as this aphorism states, we just get comfortable with it. We grow close to the feelings of loss and hold them for as long as our soul wishes. Each day just gets a bit more tolerable.
The worst for me, was losing my father. It felt as if my whole world collapsed, never to be what it was prior. The metaphor that came through for me that day was that I used to feel in life as if I were swimming in the shallows and I could always put my feet down. When my father passed, I was out in the deep blue sea, and I would never, ever get to put my feet down again. Twenty one years later, it still feels the same.
Strangely, when you are in grief, no one really has the right thing to say to you. Everyone wants to say that “they know how you feel” and they want to tell you how they felt when they lost a loved one. But when you are in grief, you do not have the elasticity or patience to listen to their story. In my situation, that was the LAST thing I wanted to hear. In your heart, you know that they are trying to comfort you, so you listen, but hearing about another loss when you are deep in grief (for me) was excruciating… because you have to pretend to the other party a) that you care and b) that they have comforted you (when it is not comforting at all.)
Having transitioned that, I resolved that I would never be that person when someone else was grieving. I wanted to find words of comfort. I stumbled upon one that seems to work. When a person I know is in this space, I share warm remembrances of the person they are missing and how that person made such a positive impression upon me, but if I did not ever know or meet that person in my life, rather than telling them how devastated I was to lose my father, if I did not know the party that they lost in their life, I say something like…. “While I did not know ______, the acorn does not fall far from the mighty oak, so they must have been a person of tremendous magnitude to have raised a child like you.” This is not a hack phrase. It is very important. You are comforting them at a moment that they are at their weakest. You are doing this because you care about them, and respect them. I have found that this statement seems to bring positive response because you have validated their loss, their feelings, their grief. You have NOT made it about your loss, your feelings, your grief. This may seem so small, but if you think about it, it is actually huge. It says (subliminally) to your friend… a) I validate your loss b) it reinforces how you feel about them and c) it extrapolates from your assumption that the person they are grieving for was a very significant person without you making any statement or platitude about someone you had never met or knew about.
The thought about “better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” is so true. But the lost part of the equation is unquestionably one of life’s most devastating moments to reckon with.
Years back, we had 4 dogs. As they each aged out and passed, it was really hard for me to weather. It has been at least 3 years since the last one (my favorite) passed. I would love to have a dog again, but something inside of me says that it will still be a while before I want to shoulder that responsibility again. The loss of something that loves you unconditionally is massive, and not easily discarded, as a variable that just disappears. It does not disappear. It is truly a passage.
On a final note. Every year since my father passed, I release a helium balloon on his birthday. My son and I used to tie a birthday card to it. I stopped with the card. Now I just find the silliest, most ridiculous balloon I can find. My dad used to love to tease my grandmother, whose birthday was December 25. We used to get her a cake that said Happy Birthday Jesus and then cross out Jesus and put Rachel. She never thought it was funny, but my dad and I did. So on my dad’s birthday I will find a balloon for a 1 year old or some kitch design that was totally bad taste, (in terms of design) and send it to dad. I know wherever he is, that he is laughing and enjoying the spoof. When I am missing him fiercely (21 years after he passed) I wear his watch and take him with me on a journey, trip, meeting or date.
Remember, our legacy is left in the hearts of the people we leave behind. While you are walking this planet, take the time to build legacy by touching many hearts in your journey. Leave an impression upon those hearts by being a person of magnitude. Someone of substance, worth remembering with a giant smile and a deep feeling in your heart.
And if you have lost someone of that calibre in your life. Carry their joy with you wherever you go. We cannot say with surety if we will ever see them in an afterlife. But we can say that our present for having known them is the continuous joy we get in remembering them with a giant smile, as I just did, finding myself in a bakery watching my dad trying to explain to a woman behind the counter to cross out Jesus and write Rachel…. And then having to explain why, with his huge warm smile until finally she got the joke and was laughing with us.
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