"Grief never ends...but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...It is the price of love" Author Unknown
If you are familiar with Facebook then you know that poignant phrases catch on like wild fire and will be recycled for days on end. I've seen this quote floating around the book of face a lot this week and each time it just doesn't sit well with me. I couldn't place it at first. I would read it, re-read it, and even speak it out loud trying to figure out which part I took exception to. The part that I think I struggle with the most is "It's a passage, not a place to stay" I don't know, honestly, if that is it or not. I woke up this morning with my own theory on grief. Timely, since my dad died 26 years ago yesterday. Maybe *that* was my issue....who know's but here goes. It won't be a perfect meme since my love for words far outweighs my love of quips.
Grief is like a hoodie. There ya go. Grabbed you right by the feels, right? Let me explain. Grief is a hoodie and initial loss is like winter. Barren. Stark. You have this hoodie but it doesn't feel like enough. Your grief isn't heavy enough, it feels like it's lacking. I speak specifically of the loss of my mom in 2012. I took point on her funeral/arrangements but my siblings all stepped in/up and we shouldered the weight together. I am the oldest though, so I naturally felt like my portion of the process was heavier so I could shield my (grown) siblings from some of the hurt. I clung to the hoodie in the winter of my moms loss but it felt like I should have had something more, something heavier, something that would stand up against the brutal nature of winter. Even though I was wrapped in grief it felt insufficient for the situation. I should hurt more, but it was still fresh so I only mourned what was an abstract thought. I could still smell her, feel her touch, hear her voice. I felt like other people were wearing parkas with their appropriate looking mourning.
Then time passed and we shifted into our new normal and it was a new season. It was like Spring and my grief hoodie felt almost right. It was cozy and comfortable. I felt the sunshine but the lack of my mom was that sharp wind spring brings. Standing in the sunshine of others who knew my mom and knew my loss I was fine, my hoodie sufficed. But, in shadows, the new situations, the sharing of my story of loss, the hoodie felt like the winter grief I remembered. I clung to my grief like life support. Hoping if I held it tight enough it would warm me and sustain me until I stood in the sunshine again. Hoping that by wrapping myself fully in the hoodie it would provide more warmth....that it would become more than it was capable of being, really. This season lasted the better part of a year I'm sure.
Suddenly it was summer and I didn't really need the hoodie. As the season was changing I didn't trust that I wouldn't need my grief so I kept the hoodie on. I unzipped it and enjoyed the warmth of happiness again. As the summer progressed I found myself slipping my hoodie off, intentionally at first, to see how life felt without that security blanket. I took to wearing my grief around my waist instead of around my shoulders. Just in case. As time moved forward I realized I was leaving my grief in the closet. Sometimes, just like in summer, I would need the hoodie for a lone evening. A storm would blow through and I would need the comfort of the hoodie to make it through. I missed the hoodie. I missed that I needed it, it had become a part of me over the years.
Then came fall and I thought I'd mastered grief. I'd made it through 3 seasons right? Fall was a shock to me. I had made it through the firsts. The year of the first day without my mom. The first holidays. The first birthdays. The first anniversary of her death. I had even made it through some of the seconds. I think summer happened in the midst of the seconds. Fall came and I panicked. I had taken my grief and put it away because I thought I wouldn't need it anymore. Then I realized that I couldn't put my hands on it, it wasn't on my shoulders or at my waist. It was another step removed. The fall brought the beauty of change. But it also brought sharp wind and cold shadows. I think you live in fall. Or at least I do. Life is beautiful and changing and then once in a while it's too much. I slip the hoodie back on to insulate? To protect? To feel closer? I am not sure really.
I've experienced death. I can compartmentalize and function and move through the steps that need to be done. Gift? Curse? I don't know, it's just what is. What has always been constant in my life is loss. My dad died when I was 14. I have been in the fall of mourning for him for many. many, many years. Yesterday was the anniversary of his death and I found myself zipping my hoodie up and resting in it's comfort. This morning I have it safely at arms reach because I don't quite trust the weather but I'm sure in the next several days it will go back into the closet.