June 22, 2022
I reached a point where I couldn’t fit grief into the nooks and crannies of my life or pretend that it wasn’t a constant companion. No, grief had no regard for my needing to focus from 9-5 or that I couldn’t unravel in the most public of places.
Two years after my mom died, I visited COSTCO to pick up a few items. As I leisurely strolled down the aisles, I found comfort in the normalcy of the experience. Kids dancing around overflowing baskets. Families checking off grocery lists. Staff offering friendly smiles. I felt more “normal” than I’d felt for quite some time … that is, until I didn’t.
As I approached the laundry detergent aisle, memories of my mom flooded me. On the shelves, her favorite items, brands glaring back at me as if to spark grief’s flames. Before I could soak in the enormity of the situation, the heat of the moment consumed me in the most humbling way. I found myself balled up in a fetal position on the frigid floor, waves of tears ebbing and flowing. My face burning from the embarrassment of it all, I willed myself up with the gentle help of a stranger.
I had no choice but to surrender.
Quite naturally, we want to skip through the pain in order to get to the ‘good parts.’ Experience a shift overnight. Return to our previous lives, as if nothing ever happened. Quickly obtain a return on investment for tears shed within the first month following loss.
Unfortunately, society as a whole reinforces this impossible path with 48-hour bereavement leave policies, misunderstandings about the grief process itself, and reliance on unhelpful – sometimes harmful – cliches. “Just keep moving forward,” some say, all the while fundamentally dismissing the height, width, and depth of sorrow altogether.
The question I continue to ask myself is whether that’s such a bad thing.
What if grief affords us the opportunity to actually slow our pace and experience the fullness of our humanity?
What if its “inconvenience” awakens us to the present moment – painful and overwhelming, yes – and soberingly real?
Prior to experiencing the deaths of both of my parents, I considered myself reflective and woke, with regard to my thoughts and feelings. Nevertheless, I can see now just how far removed I was from my emotions. I can admit that approaching life in such a fast-paced manner resulted in my frequently missing out on what was in front of me. I don’t think I fully awakened to myself until grief interrupted my daily routines and caused my expectations to tremble.
This enlightenment certainly doesn’t take place overnight, but is rather the product of failed attempts to compartmentalize grief or will it to the timeout corner.
My challenge to you, friend, is to honestly reflect on these (and other) questions, then respond.
Remember, you’re worth it.
All my love,
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