The way grief and love go together.
I think there’s a misconception out there about how we process grief. I told this story yesterday and I was reminded of how difficult the first year was without my sister.
I was also reminded of how chaotic it was. In fact, I don’t remember much about it.
When I look back at pictures from that year I see a hard shell. I don’t remember feeling hard, but you can see it when you look at the photos — a tight jaw and a forced smile.
When you lose a loved one the sadness runs deep. It’s a sadness so deep it feels impossible to access.
Too deep for words and too deep for tears most of the time; there it sits, dormant, as you try to reorder your world around this new reality.
You’re so busy the first year. Busyness takes over because you have to figure things out again. You have to find a new way of living and there isn’t much time to think about your feelings.
It’s as if you’ve lost a limb and you’re so busy focusing on the rehab to get yourself functioning under these new limitations that you forget to grieve the thing that got you there in the first place.
The only problem is that once you start to feel again, everyone is gone. Or, I should say everyone assumes you’re okay and it doesn’t hurt so much anymore.
The reality is that your just about to get started. There was never any intention of ignoring the pain and sadness of your loss, but you just haven’t been able to pull it out because it was stuck too deep.
Only after a year do you start to feel it rising to the surface and it seems like the tears come all at once.
Never buttoned up and composed. Always unpredictable. Nothing is safe.
It’s like you’re walking around timid and afraid as if the world were full of landmines containing tiny little pieces of your grief, waiting to explode at any moment.
It’s as if our culture says it’s okay to be sad……for awhile.
After awhile, it’s time to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and enter back into life. Move on and let it go.
But let me ask you something.
If our love only grows stronger and deeper with time, how is it that our grief is supposed to grow smaller and fizzle out with time?
Friends, I am genuinely perplexed by this.
It doesn’t make any sense to me and I would venture to guess that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to those that are coming up on their second year of grieving.
Here’s the thing. Grief and love are so tangled up together that it doesn’t feel right to let your grief wither away into a bleak nothingness without letting go of your love for that person.
And we never want to stop loving them.
Our grief and our love are so deeply connected that it’s impossible to hold onto your love without holding onto your grief.
Does that mean that we’ll be sad all the time for the rest of our lives? Of course not.
It means that we have to find a way to love them again. It means that we have to honor them with our lives and our time and our resources.
I have a friend whose family just held a memorial golf tournament in memory of her brother who died in a tragic accident. Another friend of mine does a “So You Think You Can Dance” fundraiser every year to raise funds for a dance scholarship in memory of her dancing daughter. Our family started a home for young girls to escape from poverty in Northern Thailand.
Looking back, I realize now that losing someone you love prematurely is confusing for all of us.
To those that are grieving, I’ll say this: you’re going to feel sad for the rest of your life.
And to those that are walking alongside the grieving, I’ll say this: don't be afraid to show up after a year and give your grieving friend a chance to love the one they lost again.