Because if I even use the word “grieve” you’ll probably brush it off. Nobody’s died, at least not recently, so this isn’t going to connect to you.
Or maybe you know a little more about grieving. Maybe you’ve heard that you need to grieve more than just the death of a person.
Maybe you know that people cry when they lose pets, or relationships, even dreams. Maybe you know that losing a home is hard, being in another country from your friends just as painful. Maybe you know that you don’t always mourn for what was lost, but what never came to be.
Maybe you know this.
It doesn’t make it any easier.
Because there’s no hamburger diagram or five-step process to help guide you through the complex losses of your heart over the past few years. I can’t tell you– this is what you lost, or that is what you never had. Nor can I tell you what you should or shouldn’t cry over– no, only you can tell me that. Well, that might just be it. You’ve got to tell somebody.
However, you might be clueless, like me, to so many of the losses. You skip along the sidewalk of normal life, then it smacks you in the face like an unseen, overhanging branch. Yes, it hits you– a song, that scene in a movie, or even just the corner of a Facebook photo. They hit you with the weight of lost memories, or never-to-be-fulfilled dreams. Yes, they hit you, and hurt you.
The question is, will you let yourself be hurt?
Will you stop on that sidewalk, and realise your face is bleeding? Will you take out a napkin and hold it tight? Will you ask a friend for some ointment, maybe a bandage?
Well, the branch metaphor doesn’t really coincide. Because when I’m grieving? It’s not from a new cut. No, it’s more like I’ve had an open wound under my sleeve for awhile, and when someone bumps me in the wrong place, I cry. My emotions are not the enemy. They point me to the pain so I can deal with it. Well, I could just carry down the sidewalk pretending like I’m okay, blood dripping as wine on a cement tablecloth.
Or… I could sit on the grass among the autumn leaves and cry.
Because “dealing with it” is not as easy as wrapping up a blog post, writing that last line that will give you a sigh of contentment. You don’t get happy sighs when you’ve just gone through a breakup, when you realise a relationship isn’t going to happen, or when you wave goodbye to your family, not knowing when you’ll see them again. Those are not “choose joy” moments. Those are please feel moments.
Please, feel. Oh, I know that’s the dangerous thing. That’s gut-wrenchingly risky. Feeling utter despair, ghastly disappointment, or exasperated questions… you might look… well… a little less than perfect. You might unravel and people will see. They might not understand. You throw yourself into… well… vulnerability.
Yes. Instead, I must beware of bones that healed crooked,
pretty scabs with infection underneath,
and a heart withered to stone from unforgivenness and tears un-cried.
What can save me– all of us– from that fate?
Two words. In them, a person, a story.
Start with that.
Photos: Amsterdam, the Netherlands; November 2015.