Friday, July 3, 2015

Dancing with grief

I was talking with a widowed friend recently. I asked her how she was doing and she replied, "I was okay last week and then I felt awful." I know exactly what she means. Anyone who has experienced a big loss knows, I'm sure, while it may seen contradictory to those who have not yet traveled this path.

When Kevin was dying he was really worried about me. He wanted to know that I would be okay. I thought about it and then said the most honest thing I could. I will eventually be okay. I don't know how long it will take. I still believe this to be true but I am beginning to understand how okay works in this 15th month without Kevin.

Grief and okay are dancing inside of me. Sometimes it's a quickstep, with lots of short, fast changes. Other times a tango, slow and seductive and it just won't let go. One doesn't really exist without the other; what matters is who leads.

I've written endlessly about how grief feels, how it's nonlinear. Sometimes it's an aching emptiness, other times it's real, physical pain. It's always there. What I find interesting now is what okay feels like. It feels complex. It feels nothing like it did before he died. When I am okay I am balancing the knowledge that Kevin would want/wants me to live a full life and the reality that I don't know what full life means anymore. I am balancing the truth that part of why I'm as okay as I am is because he loved me so well but how can I be okay without him loving me still? It's full of paradox, which seems to be a big part of grief anyway.

When my friend said I was okay last week and then I felt awful I was so grateful to hear this named. I will feel okay for a time, maybe even pretty good, and then I realize I feel okay and Kevin isn't here. How can okay exist without him? I am propelled back into grief. There is no logic to it, it's just the way it is.

For example, Kevin's birthday was this past Sunday. He would have been 57. His birthday last year was very hard, made manageable only by his kids surrounding me. This year I was in Kansas City and the kids were off in their own lives. I invited some friends over, people who knew and loved him. We ate foods he loved, we told stories, we spent time together. I was okay. In fact, I was surprised at how okay I was.

This okayness continued for a few days and then abruptly I found myself sobbing until my throat was raw. I don't think I had been consciously repressing the sorrow, I think I truly was mostly okay. Until I wasn't. Until his absence became bigger than the comfort I felt from my friends. Until grief was leading the dance again.

This is what okay looks like now.  An unpredictable dance with shifting leads. I am neither partner nor lead but the displaced air, shifting and swirling in response to the motion. And for now, that's okay.

(c)2015 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License


  1. To use a phrase I hate: It is what it is. It is okay. It is shitty. It is. You are. You are loved. xo

  2. I love the image of the dance between ok and grief - you've expressed it so well.

    1. Thank you. I wish you didn't know too.


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