Is it weird that sometimes I feel pressure to do something with my grief? To eat? To pray? To love? To hike?
Eat? I haven’t really eaten a healthy meal since March- I’m still trying to kick the wicked dark chocolate Ensure addiction that I developed when my dad was in the hospital. It was the only thing I could stomach. Pray? I recall about half of the words to any Jewish prayer at any given time. Baruch At…ah crap, I forgot the words again. Love? I’m not sure I even understand the meaning of that word anymore. Hike? Tempting, but there is a high likelihood that I would be eaten by something large and furry. I confess that I’ve never actually read Eat, Pray, Love or Wild (I am reading Tiny Beautiful Things so get off my back!), but I do like the concept of journeying big to find meaning. It’s just not my style. Anxious people don’t really journey big. They take staycations. My grief is like a staycation. It mostly sucks, but it has its moments.
It’s true when they say that the stages of grief aren’t linear. Why the fuck not? Because that would be too easy. Oh! Done with sadness, let’s check that off the ‘ole “to do” list. Denial? I’m the Queen of Denial! Nope! You cycle through the stages. It’s as if you’re riding a merry-go-round. You’re bobbing up and down on your pretty, painted, pony in a forward motion and, suddenly, someone plucks you up flips you around and makes you ride it backwards. Two steps forward, two steps back. You didn’t know it at the time, but Paula Abdul was a goddamn grief counselor.
Here is the secret- grief itself is the journey. It’s tangible. It’s a trail guide. It’s a time machine and a time thief. It’s an angel on one shoulder and a devil on another. It’s an impossible labyrinth that is somehow conquerable. Trust me. You can’t lose a parent and go through a divorce in one year and not learn a thing or two about the internal journey of grief.
Here is another secret- grief is that teacher you hated as a kid but look back on now and secretly thank for giving you chops. I had a teacher like that in 5th grade. She smelled my fear and called on me when I didn’t raise my hand and, instead, tried to slink down in my chair. Because I knew she was coming for me, I studied every night and, eventually, I raised my hand and sat tall in my chair. Action, the enemy of anxiety. Acceptance, the enemy of grief. I hear it’s the last stage, too. The end of the line. Maybe.
I’ve almost reached the acceptance stage a few times and then circled back to anger and sadness, because I like to go back and double check my work. I’m getting there though. I feel mostly okay on a lot more days. I laugh a lot more and answer honestly when people ask how I’m doing. “I’m okay.”
I know a lot of you understand loss and some of you don’t yet. You will at some point, in some way or another. When you do, you’ll clutch the pole of your painted pony and realize your hands are slipping. It’s okay. Know that you’ll be okay. Own your journey, whatever that journey looks like to you.