It has been just over two months since Dad died. I have been through grief before. Without intending to demean his loss, it is pretty much like the other times I have grieved. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s legacy to our society was her determination of the five stages of grief (read: http://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/). Her original concept is fairly true, in my experience, though this website updates it and validates an individual’s path of grief, which can be unique. In my own version of grieving I have not found the ‘bargaining’ stage to be relevant… shock, yes, but no bargaining. I am somehow able to accept that the departure of our loved ones from earthly existence is not something we have any control over.
What I experience as grief is an underlying sadness that seems to come to the surface, sometimes at the oddest and most inconvenient moments. This morning began in a happy and constructive way with a brisk walk, favourite tunes on my iPod and then a quiet, relatively calm browse through the grocery store. At one stage as I bought a can of fruit, located adjacent to the candy isle, my brain betrayed me and shot off most unexpectedly as my eyes found some packets of licorice. When I visited my parents over the years I used to frequently buy my Dad some of his favourite candies, among them licorice, Necco wafers, and butter mints. Today as my eyes passed over the licorice it occurred to me I would never buy that for him again, and suddenly the lump was there in my throat and the tears rimmed my eyes… and I needed to buy milk. Uuuuuggghhh. If I had been at home I could have had a little cry and moved on, but I really didn’t want to let loose in the middle of the grocery. So I kept my eyes down, felt it, and thought more about some of the other little treats I would not share with him again. I will get used to it.
The other time that I am often surprised by the grief is when someone expresses genuine kindness to me, in sympathy for the loss. This unexpected kindness grabs me and tears open a small hole through which the sadness bubbles up again, and the tears quickly follow. I try not to cry because I don’t want the other person to feel as if they’ve done the wrong thing. They have not. It is through this expression of kindness I appreciate my fellow human beings in a special way. Helping me feel this deep connection is anything but wrong.
I have been oddly aware for years that life was preparing me for greater and greater losses. This knowledge does not lessen the loss, but perhaps somehow makes the pain more bearable. It has hidden inside it a sort of hopefulness, a knowing that I will get through. The times when the sadness prevails become fewer. Eventually, I will enjoy life with deepening gratitude.
How do you express or experience grief?