Originally published on Lipstick & Politics, April 2, 2013
Grief And Glory
Grief can hijack you. It turns victories into faults. It twists behaviors in which you would never before have engaged into survival techniques. It blames you for what is out of your control and relieves you of blame for what is within it. Sense is nonsense. Chaos reigns. It turns the stomachs of others who cannot bear the thought of it happening to them; they become exasperated or impatient, or just want you to go away. You want to go away. No one is impervious to it.
Photo courtesy of walknboston
Some of us think we can outrun, out “strong,” outdo it. We think, “If only I focus on the positive then I will no longer feel like my innards are hanging out for everyone to see.” But there they are, just swinging in the breeze. No matter how skilled we think we are at hiding them. They are in plain sight for anyone who cares to notice – and perhaps even more glaringly obvious for those who don’t care a whit.
Take it from one who thought she was the exception: when it happens to you, and it will if you are lucky to enough to love, you will come to understand the essence of darkness. You might want to escape it, avoid it, squeeze shut your eyes, stick fingers in your ears and ignore it; you might even convince yourself that you are smarter than grief. But you are not. It will kick your ass four ways from Sunday. Eventually.
When it does, friends, you will go down – like a catastrophic vehicular accident culminating in the mass destruction of you. There you will be in a feeble heap at the limicolous bottom of your life. You will feel so isolated and desperate that all you have experienced up to this point seems both light-years away and utterly meaningless.
Photo courtesy of Matan Rochlitz
Likely you will linger there for a time that feels endless; and just when you think you are ready to find your sea legs and wobble onward, something will come along to remind you that aren’t. Usually it’s something that, under previous circumstances, you would have taken in stride but now knocks your wind clean out like a flat tire, or your favorite crackers that are out of stock at the grocery store, or breathing. That cycle of shoring up and toppling over will go on for a good long while.
One day, though, you just might catch yourself beginning to find your way out. It may sound ludicrous now, but slowly you may discover tiny parcels of heaven all around you. Each little bit of light you find is an accomplishment upon which you can build. Search out warmth in the hands of those who love you. Take in the sky. Attend to the goofy grin on the face of a passing puppy, and grin back with your tongue out. Soon you will begin to count your blessings (yes, you have blessings) — not only because you have known love, as transient as it is everlasting, but also because with awareness comes compassion, empathy, and greater patience. These are keys to more love. So, you see, grief may be one of your most profound gifts.
Though I’d bet that if you are in the throes as you read this, you probably want to punch me for saying so. It’s ok. I kind of want to punch me. Because it sucks. Hard. In the most-ingeniously-engineered-evil-plan-to destroy-the-universe kind of way. And “smelling the flowers” is not easy in the beginning nor is it a cure-all. Taking stock in the glory of the minutia, however, may assist in opening your eyes to the rest of your life. What’s more, you are not alone. There are throngs of us out there who know what loss is and we want you to have faith in the value of what lies on the other side of where you are. Beauty will find you if you open yourself again to seek it.
The notion may now clang cacophonously in your delicate ears, but the truth is we are wired to endure loss. It is in our nature to wallow and seize in perpetuity when it comes to spectacular grief as surely as it is to love recklessly and with abandon. We are tasked, then to put endurance into practice for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. Survival connotes perseverance, singularly and globally. Wandering listlessly in the Land of “Why Me?” is tempting, and certainly permissible for a time, but none of us is immune to the human condition. The trick is to craft your response and become both the pupil and the master of how it will shape you.
Photo courtesy of Rhys Asplundh
You have found your test. Own it. Hate it. Allow for help when you cannot help yourself. Accept your human-ness. Forgive yourself for screwing up, for feeling out of control, for losing it. Just as you would comfort tenderly a friend in your position, so too express compassion for yourself.
Now breathe in, and let a little bit of it go in favor of something new. Your loss will forever be interwoven into the fiber of your body, but it need not impair you. Hear this: you will walk again, if and when you see fit, so long as you identify and employ the supports you need, and in as much as you choose.
Grief can hijack you. If it has, let it for a little while. Soon, you will stare down the barrel of the gun, peacefully wave it aside, turn your back with confidence, return your tray table to its upright position, and prepare to fly with the knowledge that you are one tough mother.
Your earned compassion will allow you to soar. When you do, your wingmen and women will be right there with you, helping you write your new story of what it means to you to live a fully engaged life.