Grief is a difficult topic to broach but it is on my mind and in my heart right now because yesterday I lost one of my dearest friends. I find myself dunked back into the shocking ice bath of emotion that is deep grief. My first experience with true grief came when I lost my mom. Up until then I only thought I understood what grief was and I had no idea how it would pull my world into sharp perspective or that it would always be with me from that moment forward. I'm writing about this today because I feel like grief is something we tend to gloss over as a society and have some pretty unrealistic expectations about. Maybe if I talk about how it is for me someone else will find comfort and hope in knowing that they aren't alone in how they live with grief and that it is in fact ok to live with it.
We all acknowledge that grief is something we experience but it is supposed to be this brief thing that we move past. We give our condolences and expect those suffering to be sad for a little while...but what happens when it doesn't pass? I know people who talk about it and those who don't but are clearly still suffering. When grief came to visit for the first time I certainly didn't expect it to be a creature that would take up permanent residence in my soul and live with me day in and day out for the rest of my life. Nor could I imagine that it could be something I would be ok with, but you know what? I am.
I am usually on a pretty even emotional keel and generally more happy than not so it might come as a surprise to those who know me that grief is a very real part of my daily life. How often have you heard, "Time heals all wounds" and "Everything will get better with time?" That simply wasn't true for me, no matter how many times people said it. The holes in my heart left by loved ones who have passed from this world didn't heal, instead they became a tender and familiar part of my interior terrain. What I mean is that the pain of losing my mom didn't pass, instead it became a known and understood part of my spirit. Even though I don't see it coming I am no longer surprised when a memory or experience triggers tears and sorrow and the deep aching missing of my mom. It has been years since I lost her but that still happens frequently. I don't dwell in it when it does. I have the experience, pull myself together and keep going with my day. That's how it really is and has been for years now. I imagine it will always be this way. When you lose someone who is an integral part of your life, who helped shape you into the person that you are I don't believe it is something you really ever get over. It is something you learn to live with which is very different than "getting over it."
We all want to be happy but I consider one of the hard truths in life to be that we rarely learn or grow when we are happy. Happy is usually complacent. Grief has taught me more about compassion than anything else ever had. It has also given me perspective. I have found myself in the middle of situations where emotions and drama were running high and was grounded in the truth of the situation. No one is dying here, no one has a terminal illness or is injured or truly suffering. In comparison this situation is a small manageable one. Grief also reminds me to demonstrate through word and action my love and appreciation for all of the important people in my life. I say I love you not just to my family but to my friends that are my chosen family as well. I want them to know often how cherished and important they are in my life and how they make my life better. For me it is love that makes life worth living, these people I love don't enrich my life experience they are my life for what would my life be without them?
Grief is a normal and healthy part of our life experience. Understanding and seeing it that way helps me deal with it when I am having a deep grief experience as I am now. Sorrow is familiar to me and I know the depth of it will change though the missing ache of this loss never will. My life will always be different without my friend Jacky and it should be. That's what it means when someone really touches your life and leaves it, change. I've been changed by my beautiful friendship with this incredible woman and my life will be less for the future experiences we will not be able to share but is richer for our history and everything we did. I will always grieve for her loss and understanding why I do and that the grief is a memory of how important a part she played in my life will help me process and live with it.