Grief, that’s what it is

We are grieving, collectively, the world over, all of us. Grieving the past we’ve lost and the loss of the future we expected. Things will be forever different for us. There are stages to this grief, and we will all experience it differently. But it is in acceptance where we will find the ability to process it and move forward into an uncertain future. This is our now. This is what we have to work with.

In this excellent article on grief, David Kessler shares his thoughts on what we are all going through:

“Yes, we’re also feeling anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain. Usually it centers on death. We feel it when someone gets a dire diagnosis or when we have the normal thought that we’ll lose a parent someday. Anticipatory grief is also more broadly imagined futures. There is a storm coming. There’s something bad out there. With a virus, this kind of grief is so confusing for people. Our primitive mind knows something bad is happening, but you can’t see it. This breaks our sense of safety. We’re feeling that loss of safety. I don’t think we’ve collectively lost our sense of general safety like this. Individually or as smaller groups, people have felt this, but all together this is new. We are grieving on a micro and a macro level.”

The article is well worth a read, as it helps us put the issues we face now in perspective and give voice to our feelings. He states:

“Understanding the stages of grief is a start. But whenever I talk about the stages of grief, I have to remind people that the stages aren’t linear and may not happen in this order. It’s not a map but it provides some scaffolding for this unknown world. There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s Acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

“Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”

Sometimes dealing with a problem begins with naming it. Grief, that’s what it is. Have compassion on yourself and others. This is hard.

Be kind.

kind

As we bump and bustle our way through life, we often don’t notice other people much, maybe never pause to wonder what they may be going through in life. Usually they are just the person in the way, or the one in front of us in line, or the one who is doing a dismally poor job of getting our order right. But if we could step back and see their interior lives, we may get a whole lot of patience in a hurry. Everybody is carrying a load of some kind. Everybody hurts.

Or, as Jon Pavlovitz says in this insightful article, everybody grieves:

If we could keep this reality in the forefront of our mind as we make our way through the hustle and bustle, we would be gentler, kinder, more patient. And that would do a world of good for our weary world.

Moving past the past.

past

We cannot fix our pasts. That’s a hard truth to accept, so we spend a lot of time railing against what happened, wishing it had been different, ruminating over the details. But the past cannot be cured– We made that mistake, we had those parents, we encountered that trial, we suffered that loss. Whatever it is. It happened. It’s true. And now it’s part of our past, a part of us.

We cannot make changes to the past. Pretending it never happened may only serve to bury the hurt just to have it pop up unexpectedly later when something triggers a memory. Glossing it over or telling ourselves we’re fine, may cause wounds to fester.

There are many things, though, that we can do with our unpleasant past that can help. We can grieve the relationships we wish had been better. We can offer ourselves the nurturing we may have craved. We can learn from the mistakes we made. We can look for ways to reach out to and support others going through similar hardships. We can look for the positives that came from the bad situation. We can give ourselves permission to heal. We can forgive.

And we can focus on the present, where we have the ability to act.

A time to grieve.

grief

 

This hurts. A physical, mind-numbing ache for what has been lost, not just the lives, though that is staggering, but also for the world we hoped for. A tragedy reminds us that the world is not peaceful yet, that there is so much work to be done, so much hurt to soothe, so many wounds to bind. Some turn to anger and lash out because this grief is heavy and painful. It is hard to bear. We are afraid. But even in the midst of our fear and our anger and all of our grief, there is beauty. The sun rises again. The birds sing. There is hope for a new, better day, yet still. Yet, still.

Redemption Song

by Kevin Young

Finally fall.
At last the mist,
heat’s haze, we woke
these past weeks with

has lifted. We find
ourselves chill, a briskness
we hug ourselves in.
Frost greying the ground.

Grief might be easy
if there wasn’t still
such beauty — would be far
simpler if the silver

maple didn’t thrust
it’s leaves into flame,
trusting that spring
will find it again.

All this might be easier if
there wasn’t a song
still lifting us above it,
if wind didn’t trouble

my mind like water.
I half expect to see you
fill the autumn air
like breath —

At night I sleep
on clenched fists.
Days I’m like the child
who on the playground

falls, crying
not so much from pain
as surprise.
I’m tired of tide

taking you away,
then back again —
what’s worse, the forgetting
or the thing

you can’t forget.
Neither yet —
last summer’s
choir of crickets

grown quiet.

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You are always with me.

thread

How hard it is to lose someone you love. There is so much that seems unseen or unfelt without being shared together. So many visceral, tangible reminders of your loss are everywhere. Sounds, smells, songs, times of day, stories, jokes, and so on. Everywhere you look. There’s no escaping the weight of the loss really.

The only thing that makes it bearable is to consider it not loss, but a gift. Moments shared colored your life and made it brighter and more nuanced. The threads of memories you shared become woven together with threads from all the people you’ve loved and become the tapestry that is your life. And that ever-presence becomes not a stab, but a comfort.

e.e. cummings captured it well:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
To all those we have loved and miss dearly, let us look back fondly, grateful for all the colors they brought into the tapestry of our lives, and repeat together:
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

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