Lesson 473,321: Grief Cannot Be Outrun...Nor Should It Be.
Sometimes, it seems to me anyway, that the whole purpose of life is to love and learn to grieve. To miss the things and people taken from us, regardless of whether they were good for us or not. It would lovely if life’s lessons did not include developing deep feelings of love and connectedness to people who are not, in the final analysis, good for our mental health or physical well being.
I think it would have helped me if I would have understood the puppeteering nature of trauma in people’s lives. I wish I could have seen the strings, in my own, in his, in so very many.
I like to think that if I would have understood better, I would have been able to miss at least some of grief’s lessons. But perhaps, not. Perhaps we are allotted a certain number in life and the more you live your life, the more lessons in grief you are to receive.
Seems possible to me. Really. I mean, those of us who shut our lives down, refuse to engage, allow fear or fear of sadness or being made a fool or being spoke about negatively, these people shirk their lives, eschew the tangled net of living. Escaping some of the pain, while always creating more, albeit different kinds of pain.
Even isolation will not stop grief’s lessons. While spending your life alone, removed from the stream of life, you must then grieve all that you are missing by choosing to sit it out. Perhaps sometimes though, the grief too large, too all encompassing, that all that is really left for the person to do with the rest of their life is to recede, and live with the constant, unrelenting companion of grief unable to be healed or even mitigated.
I have seen that in other’s lives. I have seen it in movies. Lives twisted away from living, tucked away with the illusion of safety by the removal of oneself from all the hustle and bustle of living. I am pretty sure this is almost always a prelude to suicide. But I also think there are those who finally figure out how to live with their constant, unwelcome companion, grief. And it would seem that they become a strange couple who existence depends upon the other. That grief requires this widow or widower, or childless parent’s life, that grief’s own loneliness finds a way to ensnare a human life completely.
I am not in danger of removal from life by death or really other means. I have danced with grief for the whole of my life, at first mostly in a desperate attempt to avoid the feelings of loss and longing brought on by grief’s entrance. But later in my life, having learned the lessons of trauma and running away, found a willingness to sit still and just allow grief to do what it will.
And I have gained a great deal of knowledge now in this department. Cryking (crying and hiking for those of you who do not know) was developed and honed to an art while grieving the loss of a man who I believed with all my body and soul was my forever other half. He wasn’t. No, looking back now, he was just another painful lesson in letting go. And the revelation of some very painful work I would need to do in my life.
Today I am grateful for it all. That I loved him, that he left, and that I grieved him. I gained so much. This blog in fact is an outgrowth of that loss. I had to find a place to put all the sadness, all my “I am over this now!” proclamations, that were really just my sad, desperate attempts to end my own suffering. They were, looking back now, folly. But folly with a purpose...eventually.
I grew exponentially from having to deal with a grief I could not out run. And here I am again. Grieving the loss of yet another love that did not last, could not be righted or saved. Leaving me with the hard, hard question of whether there is a love that won’t requiring saving in my lifetime. I guess we will see.
Grief requires you grapple with all that you did, all that you didn’t do, all that he did, said, refused to say or do and to replay it in your mind, as if you could think up a different conclusion. I know that acceptance is a better strategy than allowing my mind to unfurl like a kite on a windy day, but still I know how committed I am to flying. So the thoughts, and feelings and heartbreak will just be what it is, I suppose.
I received a card in the mail yesterday that was mailed before it all went south. I thought about not opening it. I, instead, decided to just feel the fear I felt, the tangled knot of pain in my gut. It was there anyway, so I might as well read the card. And as predicted, it had the effect expected: tears. And I allowed them to flow as I stood at my kitchen counter, shredded envelope open to receive the wetness from my eyes.
My head, always coming to my rescue, this time with my heart in close tandem, began to tell me things:
You made a mistake
This can be fixed
You love each other
What you need to do is...
And more, so much more that I will not bore you with. My mind flung open and all this shit came flying out. So much shit, the heart and mind doing a number on me, while my gut sat patiently waiting for the chaos to calm. Because my gut knows always what is true and right. And you would think that I would have learned to tell the heart and head to shut the fuck up and allow the gut to have more sway...but sadly no. Usually I am swept away by mind and heart and the gut just can’t garner my attention even though it has way more important things to say.
So while I stood there stoically, my mind and heart exploding and compelling me to action, this quiet voice somewhere within me, it was not my heart, or my mind, perhaps it was my gut, I am wholly disconnected to what that voice might sound like, I only know the gut’s message by the cringy, disconcerting flip flop in my belly. I have only known it as a physical sensation, never a disembodied voice...until yesterday.
What came to me was this:
“Perhaps you are just sad right now. Perhaps this is how break ups go. Perhaps you will be up and then down and then back up again. Perhaps feeling ok, then so not ok, is just how endings happen. Perhaps this is all occurring exactly as it should be. And therefore, there is nothing you need to do except put the card down, be grateful for the love that sent that card across the expanse between you and allow the tears to fall until they stop. And allow all of this to happen without the misguided notion that this is supposed to be painless, that this is supposed to be easy, that this is supposed to be other than how it is right now. It will change. Because that is what life is, a constant, unremitting series of change. So perhaps you are down now, but you will be up later, this is just the nature of heartbreak and loss. You know this. You have experience with this. And you know that no matter how painful, feeling it will allow it to pass more quickly. Your old method of trying to outrun the grief, exhausting. Or trying to deny it, not possible. Or attempting to avoid it by moving on only creating more pain for all involved. Sweet woman, you just have to ride the tide of grief right now, there will be lows and highs and each of those have their purpose and it is all completely, totally for your higher good. You’ve got this, you are learning and loving and living and that is where the magic is...”
So I accepted the gut’s wisdom. I allowed it to permeate me and surround me and grasp me in the desperate way it does. All while I trusted that this horrific feeling would pass. And it did. Not immediately but not too long after either. I returned to my desk and worked which was what needed to be done. And I got mired in the grief of others and did my best to help them find solutions where only problems reigned. I did my best. And grief’s stranglehold lessened. Just like my gut said it would.
It helped me to remember that this is just life right now. I must be up and then down, and that really this is no different than any other aspect of life. It is always falling apart and coming together and going up and going down. Grief is the handmaiden to living. Always right there waiting for its turn after happiness and joy decide to go on holiday. And I know, I KNOW, that while I do not really enjoy grief’s lessons, I am better for them all. I outgrow my comfort zones and I push forward with intrepid fortitude, tenacity and metal. And I am comforted once more by the idea, the belief really, that this pain will pass and I will move onto whatever is next for me, and there is great excitement in having no clue what that might be...