I’ve spent much of my life grieving. I’m sort of over it, actually. That keening, heart-aching, pit-of-the-stomach-emptiness, no-energy, staying-in-bed-with-the-covers-over-my-head kind of existential angst? It sucks. Big time.
Grief, I have learned, is not a response only to someone’s death. Grief has its own Grim Reaper, which has visited me, has pillaged and pilloried me, in countless contexts. Loss of trust – age 3. Loss of love – age 3. Loss of parent as caregiver – age 3. Enough of age 3, don’t you think? I hate repetition. Really – I hate repetition.
Skip to adulthood. A dégustation: loss of grandfather (my hero and resilience person) – age 18. Loss of first relationship – age 21. Loss of father – age 28. Loss of second relationship – age 23. Loss of other relationships – ages 25, 29. Loss of beloved therapist – age 34. Loss of jobs – too many dates to count. Loss of hope – age 48. Loss of relationship – age 50. Loss of mom – age 54.
You get the idea. I know grief. I know how it settles into your heart and sends you into the abyss. And I’ve learned how to claw my way up and out. A good friend of mine, Christina Rasmussen, wrote a wonderful book about moving out of grief: “Second Firsts: Live, Laugh, and Love Again.” I have learned a lot about grief and its toxicity from Christina. I’ve learned about crying and “waiting rooms” and baby steps. I’ve met some amazing women and men who are working their tails off to evolve into new lives.
Healing from grief is a process. Like most everything. You do it in fits and starts. It takes time, it takes a lot of crying, a lot of raging, a lot of hard work. It takes a conscious effort to be able to hold the good in your heart and to let go. Let go of the person. The trauma. The distrust. The rejection. The emptiness. The ache. And yes, it’s Sisyphean. You don’t just wake up one day and say “Oh good! I’m done grieving!” It happens as it happens. It comes back in waves, and you learn how to cope with those waves. If you’re lucky, the waves get smaller and smaller, and the tsunamis cease. Periodically, though, they return with a vengeance and you can’t breathe. But you do anyway, until the worst of the pain passes.
Grief. Sisyphus. Forgiveness. Healing.
More to come. Tomorrow: “Anxious About Anxiety.”