Friday, October 10, 2014

Grief is a verb

There were many things I was unprepared for as I grieve my beloved. I wasn't prepared for the depths of the pain. I wasn't prepared for how stupid I often feel, my brain clouded with sorrow. I wasn't prepared for the moments of light amidst the darkness, their utter beauty and how shocking it is that beauty can still exist. I wasn't prepared for how utterly exhausting it is to grieve and take a breath, grieve and take a breath.

Grief is not lying prostrate on a fainting couch. There are still dishes to be done, people to be talked to, chores to be accomplished. Life to be lived as best I can. Grief is a weight that is carried everywhere within me. To the pool. To work. To the supermarket. It's not dissimilar from depression in that it colors everything, but I am finding grief to be a hell of a lot more work than the episodes of depression I have experienced.

It's physical. There are days when my body hurts. I sometimes cry until I am on the verge of vomiting. Even in the easier moments, I find I am hunched, braced against the next blow.

Grief is an active process, albeit often an invisible one. To grieve is a verb and grieving is as active and involving as anything I have done.

Everything I do is colored with the questions of why am I bothering, would he have liked this, been proud of me. Every interaction I have has an unspoken dialogue running underneath, one that is unwelcome and distracting but present nonetheless.
How are you?
(why are you asking? I know we've never met, but can't you tell?)
I'm okay, and you?
(Do I really want to know? Oh, better listen.)
(Don't you know my husband is dead? How can your world still be vibrant when mine is broken?)

Living in this double world takes an enormous amount of effort. Even when I'm interacting with someone I know and love, grief circles like a shark that I must be wary of lest it decide to attack. And sometimes it does. The wariness is exhausting. The trying to keep it at bay is exhausting. I marvel at how tired I can feel and yet still function.

It helps when I give myself permission to rest, to put down the burden of everyday life and to not pretend I'm okay. It helps when I find a neutral space so grief can go about its business while I take a breath.

Grief is active and it helps when I rest up for the next bout.

It helps when someone meets me where I am and gives me the space to feel what I need to feel at any given moment. The inner dialogue calms. The shark may still attack but its watchful circles aren't so near. It helps when the grief is acknowledged and permitted space to exist without being called out.

It's active and it helps when you are present with me and accept that I am doing a lot of things all at once.

It helps when I and the world are able to come to a detente and recognize that grieving is much like running an ultra-marathon. It's exhausting. It's all-consuming. It's going to leave you battered and sore and incapable sometimes. Grief is active, as draining as intense physical activity or taking an ongoing test. It changes you and, if you're lucky, it leaves you stronger. Because you're going to have to keep running tomorrow.

(28 weeks. I love you.)

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer

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  1. LOVE this and all you write. You really express how I feel.

    I lost my Alan the day before you lost your Kevin. We were married almost 39 years and together over 40.

    I am older than you are. But so much of what you write resonates with me.

    Since my husband died, I have done a lot of work on myself and
    these last 3 months especially I am coming back to life and finding joy again.

    I think that Alan would be happy for me. I am finally meeting new people and moving forward. I live my life with gratitude and thankfulness everyday. That's all we can do.
    -Shell in San Diego

    1. Dearest Shell,

      Thank you for writing. I'm so glad what I write has meaning for you.

      I find sparks of joy, but it's hard. I'm fairly isolated and I think that slows it all down. I am getting there but... it's slow. I wouldn't really want it to be any other way.

      I hope Kevin and Alan found each other wherever they are.

      And yes, gratitude and thankfulness. All we can do.


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