I am making grief my bitch.
I’m pretty sure I could get a job as a professional mourner, which believe it or not, they do have in some cultures.
No. You guys, I wouldn’t just get the job, I would be the supervisor. It would be my job to show everyone else exactly how “it’s” done. The keening and wailing. All of it. Eventually, they would promote me and I would be the boss of the whole Agency of Grieving.
If you know me at all, and even if you don’t, you can probably (hopefully) tell I’m being facetious.
Is anyone really good at grief? What would that even mean? I have no idea.
It’s such a subjective and abstract thing. Grief is not a one size fits all garment. It looks and fits differently on everybody. And on some, I suppose, it is just not flattering. I mean, it’s not called “ugly crying” because it looks and feels amazing, right?
I’ve spilled my share of ugly tears over the past four weeks since my friend E. died. Sometimes it has felt cathartic, and other times it has been just scary. I can’t say it has ever felt particularly “good” or that I’ve felt even remotely competent while doing it.
But I’ve done it.
I’ve done it at her grave, and in my car. I’ve done it at work. I’ve done it as I fell asleep and as I woke up the next morning.
Grief has been a rather unruly house guest. It wants all of my attention. It wants to be carted about to see the sights and then complains about everything. But I’ve done my best to be hospitable because hosting this thing seems important. Necessary, even.
If I’ve been good at grief at all over the past month, it is only because I’ve made friends with it. I’ve opened my arms to all of its prickly tendencies, held it close, and wept because it is so sharp and painful.
And if I’ve been good at grief, it has been because people have given me the space, love, and support to do it. Friends and family have granted me access to sail off with grief into dark and murky waters, of which I am terribly frightened. Even though they can’t go there with me, they have assured me that they will be there when I return, standing on the shore with arms ready to collect me.
Sometimes grief comes back with me, and other times it does some island hopping alone while I tend to vacuuming, shuttling kids to birthday parties and karate, and laughing at something with my husband.
It has helped to write. It has helped to talk. It has helped to cry. It has helped to be hugged. It has helped to be left alone.
Knowing that people around the globe have held space for me while I go through this has been a priceless blessing.
And you know what? I’m feeling a bit better. Maybe I’m even feeling a lot better.
Of course this could be illusory. Remember a couple weeks ago when I felt amazing and was totally acing life and then I started to feel like crap again? Yeah.
But there has been a shift.
Even when I am off on that rickety boat with my grief, I can see the shore where once it was just a dark mess of fog. Sometimes E. is standing there on the sandy banks, and I am so happy to see her, to be reminded of all our good times, to feel her unconditional love which is so vast and strong it penetrates death and makes me feel intact.
From the great beyond, she inspires my heart.
I’m here, she says. I’m here. When you’re ready, you can come ashore, let go of the pain and I’ll still be here.
Her voice fills me with a mixture of hope and sorrow, but I hear it clearly.
I don’t think I’d have heard it had I not committed to taking this voyage to bond with grief.
So, as this self proclaimed expert who is totally winning at grief, what would I recommend to others?
I don’t know, guys.
I guess do what feels right. Let it be with you and let it go when it feels appropriate. Trust your love.
And tell yourself that you are crushing it in the biggest and best way possible. It sort of helps.