I've been thinking a lot about the upcoming year and thinking a lot about the past year. This year began on a regular note, a normal note, but everything fell apart in July with the news of my sister's breast cancer returning, this time terminal; then my parents decided to move away from the house down the street from us and into an assisted living facility across town. What began as a tranquil year is going to end in upheaval and questions, questions about what next year will hold for my family and unavoidable loss.
I have been thinking a lot about grief, how it sucker punches you when you're least expecting it. I was running the other morning listening to U2's new album when a song on it, this one, brought tears to my eyes and I had to stop to control myself and fight back those tears. It wasn't so much the lyrics that choked me up, it was more the music. The music was so beautiful, bringing back so many memories of my big sister and so many times that we spent playing together, of me listening to the wonderful stories she'd tell me at night as we lay in our beds in our shared bedroom. I know she really didn't want to tell me stories, but she would and they were rich in detail, in imaginary pictures she drew in the air with her words and I was in that glittery world she was drawing for me.
The word "grief" sounds soft to me, sounds almost like how a cloud might feel, and like a cloud, it embraces you fully, enveloping you in it's folds. Grief is the color of grey, a non-color, an in between color. Grief itself is almost sad to cause such hurt, so much pain. It almost wants you to forgive it for causing tears to run down your cheeks, for the way your belly aches and feels hollow. Grief knows it's job, but it's also sorry for having to be so good at it.
I am not new to grief, but every time it visits me, it feels new. I know I need to acknowledge it and to work through it , but I also don't want to have it engulf me. I can't let myself be in that hole again. I fought so hard to get myself out of that hole, to become a new me, a different me, and yet now today I feel as I did so many years ago. Grief paralyzes you, sets you backward to a time that you never want to go back to. It makes you question every bit of your day . . . or it just flat out numbs you to thinking, which in retrospect is a good thing because then you don't have to think but just observe the world as it goes by without you.
You don't have to be a part of that world anymore.
Grief puts you in limbo, you're neither here nor there. You can't plan for the future because you don't know if those plans will still be good. You float through the day, craving sleep, deep, deep sleep because then the tears won't come and you don't have to go to the mail box to find cards of condolences. You're off the hook while you sleep. You're almost your old self while you sleep because then you can't remember.
Grief is hurt, pain, hate, grey, softness, tears, lumps in throats, stomach aches, headaches, red eyes, swollen eyes, colorless, blackness, numbness, bottomless holes, outside looking in, wishful, loathing, observant, mean, far reaching blue skies just out of reach, a promise, a broken vow, embracing, all encompassing, a desaturated world.
Grief takes the form of a great blue heron silently cutting his way through the early morning mist of a pond and suddenly color explodes back into your world and you know that grief will forever be a part of you.
And you learn to make friends with grief.