An Open Letter To Anyone Grieving
Our experience of existence consists now only of a “Before” and an “After"...
If I had come across the title to this I would have done a hard eye-roll: please, like anyone can fathom my pain. My life changed violently and suddenly, but over a recent 18 month period, leaving me crawling on all fours and gasping for breath; that's putting it lightly, mildly, almost satirically gently.
I have become hyper aware of the fact that once you have lost a life (or lives) that you loved exponentially greater than your own, you recognize that your personal state of life exists on the terms of "Before and After" and that's simply how it goes, punctuated with the almighty year of "Firsts Without" and a couple of days that could otherwise be considered "ok, yet unremarkable".
Blessed are those who grieve.
Though the one aspect, antidote if you will, of this whole messy shitstorm would be the ways others choose to interact and respond to you. I authentically appreciate the efforts of consideration, even the efforts made to sooth with sentiments, phone calls, texts, emails, and the like - I can find at least an ounce of lukewarm sincere appreciation for. It helps ease that weird, lonely, sickly feeling sometimes, especially when it's done right. I know that sounds possibly repugnant and aloof, but it's not the job of the grieving to be mindful of things like that.
It is, however, the job of those choosing to extend sympathy to us to be mindful and cognizant of the ways, words, and sentiments offered to us. Because for Us, the simple fact that the morning after our loved one passes we awake to a very terrifying and cold reality. The world hurts. The world hasn't stopped, but ours has; we can't understand how or why life had ever intended for us to exist in a place in time without them. We feel betrayed by that fact. Slighted. Disgusted.
We sometimes get to a point where we start to believe in the grumbles of "The Five Stages Of Grief" to make sense of our constant ebbs and flows of a single 24 hour period. Life stumbles into a menagerie of conflicted thoughts - sometimes whittling the grieving down so much so that when our pleas for our own death go unanswered and we awake in a moment of calm, of numb, until the black, intentional, and angry scribbles of chaos seep back in; we are underwhelmed yet stunned at the amount of pain one can be in and still be alive.
Speaking of pain, a common echo I hear on a (finally) less than daily basis is "There is nothing normal about this much pain". With all of the hype around mindfulness and authenticity comes a push for something vague. Definitions and labels are becoming the taboo and if I may say, those deep within the throes of grief tend not to benefit from vague ambiguity. Structure, rebuilding the formality of stability, some sense of something safe - that is just our own - is often craved.
Doesn't matter how healthy or seductive untethering yourself from absolutes might be - in my own journey through grief one solid fact remains: “healthy” is whatever sustains me and facilitates positive mind frame and growth.
That may not necessarily look like grief groups or therapy on a big plush leather sofa or fresh air and exercise - it may certainly not look like what you feel a "brave face" looks like. I think what's lost in the attempt to understand is the *individuality of pain*. See, pain is inevitable and because of that fact, it is our (whatever)-given right to experience the aftershocks in such a way which validates and positively reinforces an organic and whole growth.
Paramount to that?
Essentially, pain dictates so much of our "After", and in everyone's trite but well-intentioned attempts to fix yours, they sometimes will place you in a very symmetrical box with very clear time limits and very boldly arranged barometers that will let you know when your grief has made them frustrated or uncomfortable. The shit part of that being, they really do mean well and probably really do want to see you smiling again, sans pain, back to "the old you". You can't fault anyone for that, the “old you” would be great, the “old you” had your loved one still, alive and well. The “old you” made some of life's biggest decisions with your loved one in mind, the “old you” had purpose, had something magical. The “old you” had the innocence and naivety of thinking you had time. The “old you” had a love in the world that made you feel ten feet tall, safe, not a thought at all of how any of this truly would feel or look.
How could those well intentioned people come to terms with your “After” or that you wake up everyday to a view that’s so drastically different, a view you hate, or that there are some days you cry so violently that you shake the walls of your room, that other days you proceed with apathy and a dark sense of humor that is off putting, that you don't believe in magic anymore, that you're convinced the best is over, that you're ashamed of the bitterness you have towards everyone smiling, or that some days you function fine - no breakdowns, no mess.
And the stomach churning guilt it brings.
How can they process that their loved one will experience days in which they resign to existing - not living. Or that your year of "First Withouts" will make you feel bipolar and worse, some people around you will make you feel badly for it. That you are so excruciatingly angry, at God (whatever that means to you, if anything at all) but also fearful of not getting to wherever your deceased one resides so you chum it back and suck it up. That your entire belief system now works around "Everything Happening for a Reason" yet deeply wounds you to think of their death being implemented in that thought, that their death was the pennant for a lesson you learned.
How every time you stand back up, the ground is swiftly pulled from under you. How everyday you are aware of your vibration and you know you can't fake or speed it up and you're losing people around you because of their adversity to discomfort. Or how some days the signs you receive are wonderful reminders - validations - of an unconditional and iron clad bond, how lucky you were to have had that in life, and now beyond. How you've got the most perfect and bad ass guardian angel(s) watching over you. How you're able to prioritize life, at your own pace, and the ultimate strength you will gain. And lastly, how there are things we cannot control, the inevitability of death, and our inherent bravery to love in spite of it.
Our existence is forever altered now in the After. And we close our eyes and try to awaken our senses to recount taking giant gulps of breath to smell them again, we meditate hard to feel tactile memory of them on our hands. And we break so very often making sure that the world knows the gravity of loss and remembers always the brutal awesomeness of our lost loved one(s).
We find talents in unfortunate hobbies not of choice, but of an attempt at healing. And we continue onward. Feeling further away from them each day sometimes. And when really amazing things happen, we try our best to reconcile that deep grief with deep gratitude.
So I will end this by saying all of that "time heals, join yoga, go to a group" bullshit can kiss my ass. Yours, too. Let's be ok with the fact that we are far from fucking ok. And knowing that your pain exists in its own version in other grieving won't help. I know this. But it's better than a million "I'm so sorry"s or a handful of cards. Sometimes it's nice to know your plight is heard, and that you are being cheered on regardless.
I wish you a moment of absolute peace of mind, Crystal