The many faces of Grief
At some point in our lives we all become members of the club we do not want to join. It is the club that only requires that a member of our family has died. It is a necessary passage of our human experience. It is the experience that our culture helps us do a good job of ignoring.
We are uncomfortable with our mortality on some level. And when someone close to us dies, we are confronted with our own mortality as well. Coping with loss has many layers and faces. Some of them are familiar and some are quite unexpected.
I recently lost my mother quite unexpectedly. The experience is new, raw and often brings me to my knees. There is the contemplation of memories of good times together with her and my children that brings tears. There is the aching pain of knowing that there will not be another Christmas making cookies together with her ever again.
There is the trick my mind plays on me when I think that I will just pick up the phone and call her to say hi. And as I begin to dial, I realize I can’t do that anymore. There is my anger at her for having died so young and so suddenly. I still wanted to do things with you! Then there is the guilt for having felt angry with her. There is a mention from someone, unbeknownst to them, of a favorite song or food that starts the tears again. I see someone across a store aisle with the same hair color, and I want to call out to her.
Grief isn’t any one thing. It is many emotions, experiences and states of mind that are layered together. It has been for me sadness, emptiness, loss, anger, pain, tears, sobs and confusion. Sometimes they appear one at a time. Sometimes they gang up on me as if to play a cruel trick.
A dear friend and then another dear friend whispered to me to be gentle with myself and allow the process to unfold. Initially I nodded my head as if I knew. After a few days I began to understand that I can resist the process and feel numb and disconnected. Or I can let the experience wash over and through me. That seems to work better.
Thankfully I have family and friends who surround me with love and hugs. It is not an experience with a definite end point.