My wheels were turning as I tried to understand the meaning behind the question and how I could best describe my grief to someone else.
One of the best analogies I’ve heard when it comes to describing death and loss is, “Losing someone you love is like an amputation. No matter how well you learn to get around, you will never be the same. You don’t ‘get over it’, you just adjust.”
Grief becomes a part of you, and you learn how to live with it. Sometimes you forget its presence as it sits silently in the background waiting. Then out of nowhere it will rear its ugly head when you are least expecting. Regardless of whether grief is at the forefront of your mind or silently waiting on the sidelines, you are different because of it.
Sometimes I feel like I should apologize because I’m not the same person I used to be, and then I feel angry for feeling that way. One of the most selfish feelings I’ve felt during my darkest days of grief is to wish someone experienced the pain I felt for just one week. I think, maybe then they will understand. It is a shameful and desperate response to satisfy the desire to be understood.
After my father passed away I sat in my therapist’s office with tears lightly rolling down my face as I talked about all the ways in which I was going to miss my dad. The tissue in my right hand lightly dabbed at my cheek as each tear fell. Struggling with the loss of a man I loved deeply, I could not imagine anything feeling more painful than losing him. That is, until my therapist spoke her next words. She said to me, “Your life will never be the same.” The tissue I had been using to lightly wipe the tears away was sucked into my mouth repeatedly as I gasped for air in between sobs.
In those seven words my world turned upside down. In addition to mourning the loss of my dad, I also had to say goodbye to my former life. Birthday parties and holidays….changed. Bear hugs wrapped in the softness of his chest…..gone. Baseball games, graduation parties, weddings…..absent. His jokes, laughter and words of comfort….silence.
Time healing all wounds is one of the biggest fallacies there are. It implies that given enough time the grieving will be back to their ‘normal’ selves. There is no going back. There’s only defining a new normal.
Recently I gave a sheet to my husband which included statements about how it feels for the grieving. Of the 120 statements about grief, there were 20-25 lines with my handwritten stars. These stars emphasized the statements that spoke specifically to me and my feelings.
The fact there are 120+ statements on this paper, and no two people will mark the exact same lines tells you a little bit about how vast and variable grief can be. It is impossible to relate one person’s experience to another.
I cannot relate 100% to my sister, nor she to me. I can’t even relate the death of each of my parents to one another. They were different circumstances, different people and I had a unique relationship with each one of them. To my friend who lost her father a short time ago, we both lost our dads, but her grief will be different than my own.
It is a complex, double edge sword. Grief cannot be clearly understood, but this is what I desire the most. I also desire compassion, acknowledgement, reassurance, patience, and love.
Maybe this is what most people who are grieving want. However, I cannot speak for everyone as as we are all unique and need to honor our own individual journey.
I found it helpful to read the 120+ statements about grief. It was comforting to know my feelings were understood and shared by someone else. It felt therapeutic to make little stars next to the lines that pertained to me. It was reassurance that all of my feelings are normal and part of the process. If you would like a copy of the grief document you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly send you a copy.
With my love and condolences to all the grieving, I hug you in my heart. You are changed. You are not alone. You are strong. You are loved.