I realize that as I sit and type this, as I let it flow out, there is little context but deep meaning. I’ve read many, many books on grief. From Joan Didion to Nora Borealis. What defines grief? What are the stages? What is the experience like for these two women? Was it greater? Is grief a competition? It can sure feel like it when you’re trying to find a book for your own little support group or someone tells you they can relate because their dog died.
I had a good conversation today with a young woman whose husband died in October, suddenly and tragically. I could hear the frantic shake in her voice the nervous smile that she tries on to let the world know that she is “OK”. I was her, once. I felt her pain even though she said she is “hanging in there”, I know, she knows, she has no choice but to “hang in there” when it’s the last thing you ever want to do. It made me think about my first year in grief. The grey cloud that engulfs your entire life. Time moving slowly, yet the world is flashing by; or dissociation if you want to get technical. When everybody is watching closely to see if you’re going to “lose it” or “get better”.
I don’t know when it happened, but here’s what I know or better, what I feel now. There was a day or moment in time when the lights turned back on – when the grey cloud lifted. And not just any lights turned back on, specific lights. Lights that showed the world brighter than what I remember before Josh died. The kind of lights that show a grain of glitter in a pile of sawdust. That make the colors brighter and more beautiful yet, heavy. It was in the middle of this conversation I had today, that I realized what I didn’t know about grief is that in addition to “never getting over it” you live in a world of constant contradictions…forever. I am different. I am different because I am aware. I am so aware and certain that I question the intention (contradiction 1). I live and want my children to live: free, whole, wild, fearlessly, yet I’m constantly thinking about our deaths (contradiction 2). I wonder about new relationships but worry about how it will affect my children (contradiction 3). I pray every day for God’s mercy and forgiveness, yet I’m angry that She believes I didn’t deserve my husband more (contradiction 4). I am more sad but I never miss an opportunity to laugh loudly and share joy (contradiction 5). I live in constant fear of the unknown yet I make rules that we don’t plan often and live as many times as possible in the moment by moment experiences (contradiction 6). I am bothered by the small issues of other’s problems, yet I give more patience and empathy (contradiction 7). I am optimistic and hopeful, but angry with society and injustice more than ever (contradiction 8). I am more tolerant but impatient (contradiction 9). I am more mindful but easily startled (contradiction 10). I look forward to new beginnings, new adventures, new entertainment but rely on routine and the comfort of consistency (contradiction 11). I don’t like sitting with my own thoughts but feel fulfilled sitting in deep conversations (contradiction 12). I’m fearful of heights, yet I take adventure to the highest of cliffs (contradiction 13).
There is a constant push and pull of what I believe, what I do, what I say, what I choose, what I want. It has made the lights shine on life putting attention to every detail, every curve, color, misshapen catastrophe and know that whatever comes my way, I am not afraid. I am not. Afraid. And to the new young widow I met today: the worst is over, the darkest days are still yet to come, the lights are off, but don’t stray, they will turn on and when you are blinded while your eyes adjust….you will first notice the grain of glitter in a pile of sawdust.