Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Grief Can Look and Feel Like

A friend of mine recently lost her father, and she has asked me about what’s “normal” in grief.  Hmmmm.  First, I will say that I am perhaps not the right person to ask that question of, as I am not only unsure about the answer but also because I think that even my speculation about the answer may be more confusing that it is right.  And next I will say that one of the things I do know about grief is that there really isn’t a “normal” to it. 

Through the reaching out of others with whom I have connected through this blog, I have begun to see that, although grief may have some universal similarities to it, it is not experienced in the same way by any two people.  There’s not a right or a wrong way to do it.  Going through the grieving process often seems to make people feel like they are feeling abnormal – but that’s normal, I think.  Grief is just grief, and, in spite of the things it may cause people to do or say or think or feel, it doesn’t mean that the person who is grieving is flawed, or sick, or selfish, or crazy, or depressed. 

 Grief can look like thousand different things, mostly painful and confusing but some inspiring and strengthening, if one chooses to let them be. I think that the idea of death and dying, the difficulty of grasping such a HUGE concept, as well as the questions that come along with it like WHY and WHAT NEXT sometimes makes our brains think things we wouldn’t ordinarily think.  One thing I have learned by putting my story out there publicly is that whatever’s going on in one’s head in the midst of the grief is very likely to be something someone else has/is also thinking or feeling; maybe knowing that will help someone else not feel quite as alone as they walk the road of grief and mourning. 

Lots of times grief feels like walking in a fog, without any direction at all.  It looks like breaking down into tears in the middle of driving to work or making dinner or taking a shower.  It looks like reading the same passage over and over again and then saying “To hell with it” when the words on the page still don’t seem to make sense.  It looks like waking up in the middle of the night and forgetting what has happened just for a second or two, and then remembering and feeling the slam of the sadness all over again.  Sometimes it feels like a force making you want to stay in bed – even if that means missing a meal or a party or work or the entire holiday season.  Sometimes it feels like a force that won't let you sleep - or that fill the sleep that does come with nightmares and sadness.
Grief can make it feel as if the world is spinning, it can make things look fuzzy, and it can make your legs feel heavy like cement and your heart feel broken and raw.  It can make you feel overly bold or brave … or it can make you feel small and terrified, all the time.  It can sometimes make a simple task or decision feel like climbing a mountain.  It can look like staring into space; it can make you feel like you can’t function, and – here’s the brutal truth – it can make you not really care if you can’t.
Grief can look like laughter – or rage – or avoidance – or more tears that you ever thought your body could manufacture.  It can make the world look like a minefield, full of danger.  It can feel like walking into a room full of strangers who have no idea what you’re thinking or feeling or what you’ve been through – and it can also feel like being all alone in a completely empty room, full of only coldness and hard edges and with an echo.  It can feel like holding onto a secret that has been locked away or supporting a boulder so big that it’s incomprehensible to think about ever doing anything besides struggling under its weight.  It can feel like going on a hunt, looking for a glimpse of any good at all in the world, a desperate search and an endless list of questions and worries and fears.

It can look like an endless road, and, in a way, that’s what I think it is, and I think maybe the secret to getting through it is knowing that there is no secret to getting through it

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