I’m learning this about grief – you don’t get over it. You absorb it into yourself. Grief becomes a fact of your life, an integral part of your story. Instead of moving past it, you learn to co-exist with it as a new state of normalcy. To do that, it is necessary to leave the old normal behind, where the lost person (or creature) was part of daily conversations or reciprocated acts and expressions of love. But they will never again be part of the story yet to come. The piece of them lodged in your heart will rest there, perpetually alive, while reminders of their physical absence randomly punch you in the gut at unexpected moments.
I’m learning this about grief – love continues to flourish even when its object is removed. Love after loss can be equal parts hard and soft, painful and comforting, but neither on demand. It chooses its own modes and times for rendering emotion-stirring memories. These can either sting or soothe, depending on triggers, state of mind, or even times of day or seasons of the year. Love’s impact continues to shape your sense of self. Only its expression changes as the lost one’s place transitions from present to past.
I’m learning this about grief – sharing it is easier than bearing it alone. Linking arms with others who are grappling with the same loss makes me feel stronger, less imbalanced, more protected. With them I can expose my inmost thoughts, even the disquieting whispers of shame when convictions stumble. My fellow pilgrims forgive my weaknesses because they are discovering the same ones in themselves.
I’m learning this about grief – it is unique to each person. Even when shared, the process – not of recovery, but of acclimatization – is different for every bereaved heart, for the quality of love is finely tuned to individual relationships. While all feel the loss deeply, a father’s death will be processed differently by the oldest child, the middle child, the youngest child, by sons and by daughters, because the father related to each of them in a way that was distinctly, personally, theirs alone. Corporate memories are filtered through individual experiences. So, too, love. So, too, grief.
My father died on June 11. This is the first time I’ve been able to write it. This is the first time I’ve been able to voice some of the thoughts swirling through my brain. Grief is not new to me, but the loss of a parent is. I tried to prepare myself when the shadow of death began its stealthy invasion, months before. But there is no way to make ready for that moment of good-bye. The final breath. The last heartbeat. The profound silence when life … leaves.
So I have joined those who walk with grief as an intimate companion. He is revealing himself to me one tear at a time. He is leading me by baby steps into my life’s new normal that does not include access to Daddy’s presence. He is helping me clarify my understandings of faith, hope, love and joy. This is my current chapter, and I am learning.