It’s a funny thing about grief. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Sometimes it shows itself in unusual ways and in ways that are tempting to ignore.

It doesn’t always look like the sadness or depression you might expect. Sometimes it manifests itself through anger or listlessness.

It can be brought on by a song on the radio or a funny story. You can be having a great day and suddenly can’t breathe because the horror of your loss is so all consuming.

No matter what it looks like, it won’t go away on its own. You can’t just decide that you’re done grieving. There really are no rules. How you’re feeling can change without warning, can worsen at the drop of a hat and can ruin a good day like ants at a picnic.

When we talk about losing a person, we think about just that. The loss of that individual and what they meant to your life. You’ll miss their laugh, their brutal honesty, their pumpkin pie. You’ll miss the routine of having them in your life and the way they stopped by just to say hi or because they were lonely. You’ll miss having that contemporary, the person who has known you all your life and with whom you have a shared history.

But no one talks about the other sense of loss. When someone is part of a unit, say a group of friends or part of your family, you will experience a completely different kind of loss when they die. You will suddenly recall every lost member of that group and each tragedy as vividly as if it just happened yesterday.

For example, when my Aunt Mary Ann died this summer, her passing summoned memories of the deaths of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousin. All these people left empty seats at our table and each of their deaths represented a shift in the family dynamic. When my grandparents died, we lost our core, those people who bonded everyone together. When Mary Ann lost her husband and daughter, we got closer. When Mary Ann died my dad lost his contemporary, the only person left in this world who knew him from birth and who shared the stories of his formative years.

We grieve and change each time someone dies and we often look backward, embracing the bitter with the sweet. I suppose we do this because it seems easier than looking ahead to that ever shrinking table that awaits us at the next holiday.

Depressing, I know. And yet, it’s a part of our journey. All of us will lose someone important and all of us will have to navigate the trials of coping with our troubles. Time stands still for no one and every day we can wake up and get out of bed seems like a good opportunity to work through those problems and to find healthy ways to cope and to move forward as our loved ones would want us to do.

When Mary Ann lost her husband and later her daughter, you could see her struggling but she did her best to live well and to keep going. She spent time with friends, turned to her Bible, cooked and baked and devoted hours to her family. It was hard but she showed us that it’s possible to forge a new path forward.

We each have to find our own path when we experience loss. It could be spending time with family and embracing the new dynamic. The peace we need to move forward could be found on walks in the woods, in quiet meditation or in reminiscing about the good times. Maybe it’s found in journaling or in talking to someone.

I’m not a professional or an expert but I do have vast experience in this area. If you’re going through something difficult, I hope you will remember this. There can be brighter days ahead. There is nothing wrong with admitting that life has been hard. There’s nothing wrong with seeking counseling or guidance of some kind from a professional.

It doesn’t make you weak to need help and it doesn’t make you crazy. It makes you human.

8 thoughts on “Grief

  1. Stated beautifully and very wise words, Brandi.
    Grief is a most difficult thing, and unfortuantely, not often discussed.
    Thank you for opening the dialog.

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