We had a thing happen this week in our house. On Tuesday night, we were preparing for bed and my youngest came in to my room. “Something is wrong.” The tone of voice used to say those 3 words led me to believe that there was a visiting cockroach or perhaps a clogged toilet. Then things took a very different turn. The annoyed fussy tone turned to a shaky tear filled one, as the cause was established. In going to feed her hamster Missile (aka Missy Franklin), she discovered that she had crossed over to hamster heaven.
Grief. This word is one that many want to avoid. We don’t want to even talk about it, because doing so admits a loss. Grief is something that I historically fail on all fronts. I have been known to cover my feelings, stuff my sadness, turn tears into anger and power through with work and busyness. There is a reason that books and classes and sessions and lectures have been constructed around the “work” of grief.
You would think that as a do-er, I would enjoy any kind of work. This is false. Doing the hard work of grief is the opposite of what I enjoy. Grief requires you to stop. Stop moving and fretting and planning and caring for all. Stop going and calendaring and nursing. The hard work of grief is done in the sitting. In the meditating. In the music. In the journaling. In the thinking. In the praying. In the release.
When you are in the midst of get-er-done, there is little time to stop and think about the small daily losses. The loss of dreams. The loss of touch. The loss of filling water bowls. In the day-to-day task driven world that we live, being present in the moment and not just blowing past the little things has created some of my greatest opportunities to face grief.
This past Sunday, I was enjoying the singing and familiar faces of my church. I had been away for a few weeks and I knew that for that hour, I was going to slow down. I was going to be with those that give me permission and an invitation to pray and think. I was prepared for the music to stir my heart and perhaps my tear ducts. What I was not prepared for was my trip to the coffee bar. It was during an introvert’s most hated 2 minutes of the week – the greet your neighbor moment. In an attempt to avoid having to speak, I was refilling my motor oil when a familiar voice casually but lovingly asked, “How is your dad?”
I honestly don’t know if I said a word. But in that second, a wave of grief breeched the dam of hard ass that I have been sporting for the last few weeks. My hold-it-all-together-for-everyone-especially-myself was overcome by the many moments that had happened in waiting rooms and dialysis centers and hospital rooms. Ones that had occurred in elevators and car rides and in ice filled parking lots. And without time and space to process and grieve, I have had many experiences, much like my go-go gadget 12 year-old, where I have been stopped in my busy tracks by moments of what can only be described as grief. There IS something wrong. And without the intentional moments to stop and say it out loud, this crazy journey of life can spin out of control.
And here is the crazy part of grief. When you say it, when you claim it, when you sit with the truth, you FEEL better. In the way that only stillness and listening can provide, being present in grief is healing. So why do I resist? I resist because I don’t like to do anything that requires me giving up control. Ever. But I cannot control blood pressure or oxygenation levels or creatinine. I cannot control dialysis schedules or wound healing or possible infections. I cannot control what is yesterday and I sure can’t control what is tomorrow. So for today, just today, I will choose to be right where I am supposed to be. At the corner of grief and the promise of hope.