I have a serious love/hate relationship with my grief. On one hand, my grief is like carrying a sack of bricks, a burden to carry that demands too much of my energy. But on the other hand, my grief has given me me a unique perspective and gifted me in ways I couldn’t have imagined just ten months ago.
My grief has allowed me to prioritize effectively – What’s important? Maybe more imperative, what’s not?
My grief has allowed me to choose to either accept stress or decline. Is this worth my stress and energy? If not, make like Elsa and let. it. go.
My grief has allowed me to cut myself a break. I’m doing the best I can. And if I really am, I rest with that.
We live in a world that screams success and glosses over the fruit of failure and defeat (as dismal and fatiguing as they are). When it feels like sadness and despair are only allowed to be suppressed in shadows rather than be brought to the light, it’s really easy to feel like we are always falling behind (and dragging around big, scary baggage). When my mom died on August 18, my focus became much more inward. I had to focus only what was essential to tackle each day. Life became about doing only what was necessary only with those it was necessary to be with. There was no room for extra. Eat, sleep, survive were my only daily requirements. Through that trimming process, I’m left with a perspective — not perfect or 100% accurate — but unique to my own story. I couldn’t fuss with the “extra” of life. I couldn’t worry about the frivolous and quickly, most everything felt frivolous.
I have realized in many cases, within the context of death, most things are hardly as important or serious than I had given credit. They’re just not. I’m running late to a meeting and stuck in traffic again. The grocery store is out of the one item I came in for. It’s raining, canceling my plans for the day. I think to myself who the heck cares? All things that would have lead me to pause before August 18 now are nothing.
I don’t want to belittle struggle because struggle is struggle is struggle no matter how you define it. It’s a wrestle with endurance and grit that often brings heart-ache in it’s wake. For me, I’ve decided that if a struggle, let-down or inconvenience isn’t going to determine or redirect the trajectory of my life, if I’ll forget it happened by tomorrow (or even in the next hour) my soul doesn’t get to be troubled. If it’s the degree of struggle that isn’t going to end me then it’s allowed to be no more than a mere blip on my radar.
My friends and I joke when something goes “wrong,” deeming the circumstance THE WORST. Imagine us:
We ran out of the hot pink nail polish. THE WORST.
The dishwasher broke again. THE WORST.
After a little reflection and joking aside, we decided to make a chart. The top sliver is allotted for events that are actually THE WORST — tragedy, disaster, loss. Next sliver is MAJOR CONCERN followed by TROUBLING. The majority of the chart is made up of three big letters: NBD. No Big Deal. It’s fun to exaggerate but the very real truth is that after living through trauma and disaster, not much seems important. The important things that are left, are things you know with your whole heart are chief to your existence and therefore, become all you reserve energy and time for.
While at times grief feels like putting on heavy, clunky shoes each morning, I’ve realized that grief keeps me firmly grounded. I clung to this idea of whistling in the dark. I realized that even in hard, horrible, nightmarish events, there were small glimmers of hope in the world proving that not ALL was totally lost. I learned that even my grief had benefit and purpose despite the darkness and sadness I felt. I started making whistle necklaces for myself and the fierce community that walked through our loss arm in arm. Made from spent bullet casings, these necklaces — someday’s worn as my proverbial armor — remind me that even out of something deemed spent and painful, a beautiful tune can surely be sung, albeit hushed at times. And even amidst such grief, I’ve been witness to the whole-hearted goodness that DOES exist, even when the darkness seems to prevail.
Simply put, life is a battle. It is a marathon of joy and sadness, satisfaction and discontent. But my grief has taught me we win the battle when we are together.
Even in terrible grief there is still something to be gained.