July 1, 2014
The ways in which we grieve, outnumber the stars. Thing is, most people seem to believe that everyone should grieve the same way. Or, maybe it’s just that grief creates such a vacuum inside our souls that we can only concentrate on how to best deal when the next wave of loss hits us; and make no mistake, it’s gonna hit us. If this post does nothing else, dear readers, I hope that it serves to enlighten my loved ones that there is not only one way to grieve.
I lost my daughter 27 years ago, and I lost my dad 13 years ago. My grief was palpable each time. My grief was a living breathing thing that attached itself to me and dug into every available space within my being. My five senses were so heightened; I felt every thunder of my heartbeat, I could hear a pin drop across the span of an empty home, I could smell the hospital that clung to my clothes and remained for years, I could see the steam of grief rising from my body, and I tasted the grief that lingered on my tongue and swept, at times, down my throat. Every breathe became a chore, a reminder that I was alive and my daughter, my father, were not.
Those were the similarities, as for the differences, like night and day…like night and day. For starters, I was more angry when I was grieving for my daughter. I wanted nothing around to remind me of her. I did have enough sense to put away a few pictures, a memento or two, but hardly anything of Jessica’s survived my wrath. And years later, when the anger subsided, there was the numbing. My anger had burned so long and so hot, that it had deadened me from the inside out. It took a very personal, very long, very grueling time for me to come to terms with Jessica’s death. It was my own path to travel and not one other person can say they traveled the same, because the ways in which we grieve, far exceed our ability to grasp grief, itself.
When my daughter passed away, I knew no one I could talk to that had experienced the same. And the pain was too raw to share in a grief counseling session. Subsequently, I shared and compared my grief with no one. However, when my dad passed away, I had my seven siblings with which to grieve, or not. Again, we all grieve in our own way.
My grief upon my father’s passing was just as hard and just as lonely, but there was definitely less anger, more acceptance. I did not throw pictures away, I kept every memento. I needed to see my dad, even if just a glimpse in a still photograph. Unlike my daughter’s image, whose face I had, and still have, etched on my heart forever, I am afraid my mind’s eye will forget the dad I grew up with and only remember the dad I lived with during his last days. That is not the dad I want to remember. In fact, I graduated from college a mere four months before my father passed away. It fills my heart with pride to know that my dad was able to see me graduate from ASU. However, he was in the throes of his disease by then, and he was slowly losing his battle with death. I cannot look at pictures of my graduation, it is too bittersweet, too difficult to bear. However, I realize that there are those who see things differently. After all, the ways in which we grieve, “…are more in number than the sand.” Psalms 139:18
For those of us who have felt grief, are still grieving, or are facing grief in the future (yeah, I know, this includes almost everybody), do not compare your grief one to another. Do not pass judgement on those who do not grieve the way you think they should grieve, or would like to see them grieve. If it helps my loved ones to talk about their grief, I will certainly listen. But please understand if I do not do the same, talk about it, that is. Because ultimately, when you think about it, the ways in which we grieve, truly outnumber the stars. Peace, ~v.