|"Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses. "|
How do we grieve? My very own family recently lost someone that was so loved. Is so loved. The grief we all feel is palpable. Its a tear, a rip, in our spirits. I'm watching as my disjointed family scatters and hunkers down to lick their wounds and try to get their bearings again. It's not easy. It's a deeply painful loss. It's very frightening, it feels out of control. It's not neat and tidy with a formula to follow and then we will all feel better. Right now, it's just getting through each day. Figuring out what the new normal will be.
Time is what we all need, to feel every feel there is to feel, but it seems that time can't move fast enough. When does the deep sadness go away? When do we feel happy again? When will we be ok?
What about the families who are grieving not the physical loss of a family member, but the figurative loss due to a child taking a different and more dangerous path than anyone ever could have seen coming. The loss of dreams and ideas for how life was going to go, what it would look like. Due to illness, physical and otherwise, life changing injuries, broken relationships, division amongst the family. Grieving when no one has actually died still counts. It is still painful and life changing....you have the one caveat of, "Where there is breath there is hope." There is still the chance that people can heal, things can change, but the periods of loss and pain still have to be navigated when that is what your reality is filled with at any given moment. There is the very real possibility that we will need to learn to live in a place of acceptance of what is. Out of our own necessity and the necessity of the ones we love. So we grieve our dreams and the plans and how we thought things would look.
One of the first stages in Elizabeth Kubler Ross' 5 stages of grieving is denial. There is a fine line between being positive and being in denial. When one receives a life threatening diagnosis, in any of the various forms those can come in, grieving comes right on its heels. It often feels like a scar left on our good lives that we have put together. We grieve our plans and our security. We grieve the peace and assurance that our life is good and will go on for a very long time with very little discomfort. It can leave us feeling like our efforts, our trying hard to be healthy in all of its many forms...wasn't enough, and we are left defeated and sometimes ashamed. What we offered out into the universe, to God, wasn't enough to ward off these dire circumstances and we are left contemplating the bigger plan that may not be clear, that we don't understand...but we are being asked to trust.
In my experience when families try to be positive at all costs, they can miss the chance to experience acceptance in the moment and to deal honestly with what is happening each day and what the future could possibly include. They can miss the chance to say the things they want to say, to make much needed financial decisions, to see the people and places they want to see. To say goodbye. As difficult as a serious diagnosis is, as frightening and uncertain as it can feel....I am convinced there can be beautiful moments during the hard stuff. I have watched these precious moments with my own eyes.
The 19 year old son who bought an "egg cooker" so he could make the perfect poached eggs for his momma as she lay dying of cancer.
The rough and tough adult son who finally was forced to acknowledge that his mom was leaving soon and would need 24 hour care. Could he manage keeping her at home? I watched their tearful conversation, "Mom, I know what I see and what I want for you. I want you to stay here. But I can't see it through your eyes so I need you to tell me what would feel the best, the safest, for you?"
The grandma who had me take her to Kmart so she could buy all of her kids and grandkids their Christmas gifts and then help her to wrap them so they were ready if she died before the holiday. The sheer exhaustion after that day and the very long nap that was needed while I finished up the gifts.
The very elderly mom dying of breast cancer, whose big farmer son bent down and kissed her on the cheek before leaving and she reminded him...."there is pudding in the fridge honey. Drive safe."
The perfect and the imperfect actions of love that I get to witness every day is the most beautiful thing and I feel so blessed. Privileged actually. People trying, people trying to figure out how to say goodbye, how to emote every ounce of love and care that they can in the last hours that they have together. I often wonder why I was chosen to get to do this, to be given this gift of being in other people's lives at one of the most profound and uncertain and often beautiful times they will ever experience.
I think the answer to "how do we grieve" will be different for every family, for every person, for every circumstance...of course. The mother of a young child who has become so very sick has a very different journey than the adult son of an elderly mother who is at peace with her journey and ready to go. I just know that whatever our circumstances, when we can face them and walk through them in as much honesty as we can muster, we do better. While nothing can change the depth of the loss we will feel, that breathless catch in our chest....if we can find the courage, the strength, to look at our grief, our fear, our loss, to acknowledge our feelings and to allow ourselves to feel all of them, we will be better able to LIVE our last months and weeks and days. To honor what we will miss.