I had that thought the other day–that my grief was a three year old. I smiled. I couldn’t help it. The comparison was too humorous. Too true.
My grief really is a three year old in every way that it can be. It is headstrong and determined to have its’ own way. It, no matter how much I beg or threaten, refuses to just sit quietly and not disturb anyone. It picks the worst times to make a scene and, most importantly, it is something I never quite understand. I try to make friends with it and get us both to a place where we can operate in cooperation, but just when I think we are making headway it surprises me by doing the opposite of what I expect. Then, in that moment, when I am exhausted by trying to control and manage it I have to just give in and let it do what it does.
Screaming with pure abandon at the unfairness of the world?
It does it all.
My only choice is to just be there with it and wait for it to pass. I am not in control of any of it. I am just the lady who exists for it to come back to when it is spent and ready to quiet down.
As I thought about my three year old grief, I realized my grief that is 14 years old this summer is sometimes a little easier to manage. It doesn’t want much from me. Just to be left alone. As long as I peek in on it every once awhile, it is perfectly happy to live in that little corner of my brain I have allowed it to occupy. But, if I want to poke it or stir it into doing something I think it should then it can be worse than the three year old on its’ worst day. This grief has years behind it. It knows all that has passed between us. All that has been missed. It fully understands that life has not been the same since we met and never will be again. It is too smart for my tricks and bribes. If this fourteen year old grief gets stirred up, it is hurtful and vengeful. It hurls promises I missed and days I wasted at me. It goes for my heart. Every time.
So, like everyone else trying to live a life with grief, I manage the best I can. I manage my new grief with its’ unpredictability and immature needs and I manage my fourteen year old grief with it’s cynicism and it’s knowing. And, I hope they both will learn from my older grief. This grief has been around for decades. This quiet, silent grief acknowledges that these youngsters will follow it into time and that someday, because life happens this way, the youngsters will have more competition. They will have to make way for new grief. New heart break. They will be asked to step into the shadows and to become yet another part of what has fashioned me into who I am.
A person who tries to soak up every minute. Every laugh. Every memory. A girl who feels frantic in her enjoyment of loved ones, because I know they can disappear. In a car wreck. Because of a disease. On a Tuesday. And, once they are gone, they don’t reappear. Or at least not as we knew them. Instead, they reappear as a new grief. A grief that is mixed up with warm memories of what it means to love someone and take them for granted.
What a luxury that is. To take people for granted.
I don’t do that anymore. I can’t.
If I try, one of the griefs I give residence to will remind me otherwise. They will make me cry when I hear a certain song, or pass a certain color of truck or even wake up to a sunshine day that feels a little empty. They keep me on my toes. They are unruly children assigned to me. I must learn how to live with them and control them and, hopefully, turn them into something precious and fine that will add to my life and not destroy it.
Good luck to me.
I’m not sure I’m up to this job. Sometimes, oftentimes, I wish I was childless. And naive. And took everything for granted. Maybe, even living life selfishly, thinking change would never come to my door. Grief would never need to live in my heart.
If you are one of these people, you have everything the rest of us want. Enjoy it while it lasts. Because, grief is not a very fun housemate. Especially, when it is sprawled in the middle of the floor kicking its’ feet screaming and begging for five more minutes, or one more trip to a favorite place, or even just for the briefest whisper of how things used to be.
Good luck on that day.
I would tell you what to do in that instance, but I’m still figuring it out.
My best advice is to hope your grief has the good manners not to have a melt down in public. That’s when things really get interesting.
You know–in your favorite store, when the nice cashier is looking at you sympathetically and the guy behind you is jingling the keys in his pocket and studying the ceiling tiles. Both of them praying for you to gain control so they don’t have to be involved in your messy. Your lack of control. Your humanity.
Honestly, you will probably feel sorrier for them than you will yourself. You’ll understand that it’s hard to watch and that it makes them uncomfortable.
So, you’ll do whatever you need to do to escape the situation as gracefully as possible. Put on your sunglasses. Buy a piece of chocolate or some other brightly colored something. Crack a dumb joke. Anything that will distract your grief until you are out of that big, brightly lit square of knowing.
And, when you are back in the hot car with your tears falling freely you will have a stern talk with your grief. Make sure it knows that it should never act up in public. Remind it that it’s three years old now. It can’t continue to act this way. You expect more of it.
Then, in exasperation, you will drive home and binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Maybe even eat all the chocolate you bought at the store and follow that with a glass of wine.
You’re the boss of this whole mess.