Grief and the Holidays
Grief was fickle for me this past Thanksgiving weekend. I expected to be an emotional mess when Mom was unable to come over for our usual, small Thanksgiving dinner. However, I was okay, at least I thought I was. What I didn’t expect was for Grief to slither in the next day and the days following. It wrapped itself around my entire being and squeezed hard.
I typically designate the word “fickle” to our Sierra Nevada weather, men, and my pup, Frank Sinatra. To their credit, their unpredictability is my greatest teacher because all are out of my control, and all persuade me to accept their fickleness lest I get my butt kicked.
To be honest, I am not the poster child for handling Grief. I always get my butt kicked when it enters my life. However, after years of feeble, half-hearted attempts to manage Grief, or try to understand it, here is what I have learned:
First: Even though Grief is impossible and uncomfortable, it requires that I face it head-on.
Second: Grief does not behave in consecutive order, i.e., 1, 2, 3, A, B, C, or Do-Re-Mi. It is always all over the map. I liken getting through Grief to the new Star War’s ride at Disneyland. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. During this ride, you are pulling 5 G’s, headed off cliffs, sharply turning left then right, free-falling, and sometimes you are up-side-down and spinning. The ride is a great teacher and liking it to Grief, I can understand why most people do not want anything to do with Grief or even the ride for that matter.
However, to sweep Grief under the rug, or to push it down in any way, or to any degree, will only make it a worse villain that will, ultimately, rear its ugly head another time. By then, not even a lightsaber can save me. Now, if my knees buckle, I let them buckle. Now, I allow the tears to comfort my broken heart. If I let myself feel anything less, I am forever looking over my shoulder waiting for Grief to come anyway.
Third: I am aware, at least during this past Thanksgiving weekend, that I am grieving several things at one time. My Grief is not always about Mom and watching her slip away from Alzheimer’s, nor the conscious effort it takes mentally and physically to care for her. I am aware I can also be grieving anything from my dad’s passing 13 years ago, to my sister’s disconnection from our family, to heartbreak from betrayal and/or disappointment from people, to even the sorrow of losing one of my pups. My life as a whole, just like anyone else’s, has various degrees of sadness and stumbling blocks strewn everywhere.
So, what keeps me from throwing up my hands in abject frustration, or just throwing up?
Well, if Grief becomes too much, I reach out and get help, either professionally or by talking with a trusted friend. For me, this defuses Grief’s burden by half.
Second: Grief runs with a good crowd. Riding shotgun is always Courage, Gratitude, and Grace. They sit with me quietly and enjoy the ride.
Yes, Grief leaves me in a heap and exhausted. Yes, Grief can take me to a point where I cannot function normally, sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. When in the throes of Grief, it is unbearable to put one foot in front of the other. Being a caregiver I am aware that Grief is around all the time, day after day, month after month, year after year. It takes Courage to do another load of laundry, walk the pups, or go to work. Even when my mental strength is zippo, I find if I can just keep going, I at least have a sense of quiet accomplishment. By softly leaning into Grief’s discomfort and finding the Courage to move forward no matter how sluggish or slow, is the difference between paralysis and working through it.
While working through Grief, be sure to stop, breathe, take a walk for two minutes and tell me something doesn’t happen worth tipping your hat to. Gratitude makes a clear and noticeable difference while walking on Grief’s shifting sand. There is always something surprising, beautiful, delicious and even funny to be thankful for. And if it takes longer than two minutes, keep walking.
Third and finally: Know that Grace is wrapping itself around all of the Grief and the emotions it brings, just like the rings around Saturn. Grace is always there. Always.
WHAT IS TRUE FOR ME
The goal is for Grief to one day give an endearing nod, scramble out of its recliner, give back the TV remote and leave. However, be willing to accept and face that Grief may never permanently leave, only become a more tolerable houseguest.
The important thing is to let Grief touch you, not define you, or ruin you. Try not to push Grief away. Settle in, breathe and buckle up. Grief’s ride is over when it is over. Let the ride go where it goes. Let Courage, Gratitude and Grace be your lightsaber or let them ride shotgun. If and when Grief is over, you will know it is over, you will feel more complete and whole.
**The Thanksgiving Blog posted in the 11/28/19 Newsletter will be posted tomorrow in Forgive and Forget. You can find it under What I Know For Sure Blog section.