Grief is a bitch. Grief is inescapable. Throughout some point in everyone’s life, they will encounter grief to some degree. Profound grief is often misunderstood, overlooked, or not honored as one of life’s greatest challenges. A challenge not to be taken lightly.
The loss of a loved one, or a loss of anything you have come to love, can feel like a brick wall has toppled down upon you, often without warning. When shock accompanies grief the magnitude of pain can be immeasurable. During this time under the wall of bricks the brain might only be capable of registering the intentional struggle to maintain breath and a dim focus on small slivers of light seeping through cracks with little promise of pulling you out of total darkness, hoping all the while to wake up from a bad dream.
As hours, days, and even months pass, more bricks can fall on top of the already enormous pile, crushing away life as you knew it to be, and reminding you you’re still under the inescapable weight of disbelief and sorrow over your tragic loss. A weight too heavy to crawl out from under can cause an out-of-body experience simultaneous to your severely shattered heart, leaving you to walk around in a dizzying fog while pretending for the sake of others to be okay.
We are not okay when experiencing extreme grief and we should be careful to not let anyone force us to pretend to be. After the sudden and tragic death of my mother, I slowly tried to make my way back out into public after weeks of being shattered and hiding out by myself, talking only to those who could understand what I’d been through. I knew I had months, and even years, ahead of me to fully process the loss I’d been forced to accept, and I did not need pep-talks from other people trying to persuade me to stop feeling like absolute shit.
I became determined to feel as shitty as I needed to feel, for as long as it took.
But, I had recently started dating a guy who had been a good friend for a long time, and only weeks before my mom became sick and died suddenly, I shared with her my good news about finally being in a relationship again after many years of being alone; which had made her slightly uncomfortable as I crept independently through my forties without putting any effort into finding a suitable partner.
I did not want to lose this man and he did not want me to fall any deeper into the rabbit hole I’d toppled into only nine weeks after he and I launched our romantic relationship. So, I faked being okay long before I came close to being so. And, this fucked me up even more than I’d already become after witnessing my mother suffer for eighteen days and saying goodbye to her as she died in my arms on a morning in February, 2014.
My boyfriend dragged me to Vegas, which I am not a fan of on a good day, let alone in my fifth week of grieving my dead mother, and I became resentful without realizing I had because on the surface we were having a great deal of fun. He dragged me to incredible restaurants and popular bars all over Los Angeles, treated me to seaside massages and front row seats at film festivals and premiers. I tried to love the wonderful adventures he shared with me, but hated every minute of all of it, because grief rules.
There is no escaping grief. There is no pushing it down, or out of the way. There is no covering it up with fantastic meals, or cocktails, or entertainment of any kind. No love, no love-making, no coddling, or caressing can take away grief. Only time can do this.
Only time. And, time is in the internal clock of the beholder. No one can tell you how long grief should take. It comes and goes on it’s own schedule and just when you think you’re climbing out from under the brick wall, another brick comes flying at you from out of nowhere and knocks you out. Cold.
The longer we grieve, the greater potential we have to make others around us uncomfortable by exposing them to witness our deep sadness, despair, anger, or even fear. And, the greater potential we have to perhaps ignite grief within others they never fully realized or dealt with. Fuck that. Grieve away. And, don’t worry about what others think. You deserve to heal in your own time, and in your own way.
I had a woman walk up to me at my kids school three months after my mom died and ask me, “Are you feeling better now?”. I replied, “I haven’t started fully grieving yet, I’m still in too much pain.” She said nothing and walked away looking bewildered and I felt sorry for her.
Strangely, and without any timeline or rules, grief does subside and the agony of missing someone you love finds a special place to live inside your heart without taking your breath away. You will breathe deeply and feel fully again. But, only if you honor grief.