For millennia, great philosophers and scientists alike have sought out the explanation and understanding behind life, our purpose, wisdom, existence, and death. From the Holy text of the Bible to the peaceful interpretation of the Quran, the inspired writings of Aristotle and Plato, and the inspirational speeches given by many who have survived their trials: We are treated to the debate of human affairs, rooted in the idea of justice. This context is often treated as an appeal to those who are just and deserving of the resolve, which is necessary to understand the circumstance they are in.
Although this Socratic way of thinking lends itself kindly to the common human affairs such as politics, it does not account for the basic human response to grief, suffering, and emotional pain. Unfortunately, our desire to establish justice and fairness often shadows our ability to accept the pain, and in turn sends us on a journey to establish “justice.” This walk of life corresponds directly to anger, rather than healing.
Before you begin this journey, or read any further – you must make an elective decision to focus solely on your feelings of pain, loss, and suffering – not the anger. Understanding the difference will be vital to finding a path out of the place you may be in or are heading towards.
It is not my place to say whether your anger is justified or not. It is no one’s place to judge your emotions, thoughts, or feelings. But grief will always result in one of two things….it will consume you or it will make you stronger.
Regardless of the path you choose, you will not be the same person you were prior to this journey, and once you have accepted the grief of true loss, you will be faced with the same grief in losing yourself. You yourself will resist the acknowledgement of both losses, as will the world around you.
You will fight to hold on. To everything. And then, you will fight to let go.
There are a million documents and books available about the Stages of Grief, they have been discussed, studied, verified, put into educational text and spewed around our society for consumption. They essentially categorize emotions into neat boxes, trying to explain away what cannot be truly understood. Even in my own experience and writing, I will not be able to label your emotions and neatly file them away for later explanation or disposal. I will never be able to place myself inside your mind, heart, or soul.
What I can be is honest about my own experience, and empathetic towards anyone and everyone who happens upon my work. You will find sentiment that you can identify with, and hopefully you will take comfort in knowing you are not alone, you are not crazy, and you nor your grief will ever fit inside of a category or box. I was told once that I would receive a tremendous amount of advice and sentiment about my loss, it was my job to look at each statement as a hat, and simply try it on. If my own faith or beliefs refuted statement, simply take off the hat, and set it aside. In the early stages of grief, clinging to hope and solace will get you through the next breath, but as time goes on you will evolve your thinking and it’s important to know that:
Not every hat fits.
True loss is aptly described as losing something you loved more than you love yourself. Although mildly self-deprecating, this concept will ring true to millions of people. We often don’t understand the depth of our love until we are faced with a brutal reality of death. But grief is the price we pay for true love, and as much as we detest the notion of facing loss we all will. Death is what connects us all, a common ground that cannot be changed. Unfortunately, conversations surrounding death or loss have been marked as taboo and “uncomfortable” and people are often ostracized for either needing/wanting to discuss their feelings or ostracized for not wanting to discuss their feelings. The distance created by these afflictions will feel like abandonment. But again, the anger only widens the barriers. No one will understand fully how you feel, but if given the opportunity, most will try. They will draw from their own experiences, share their own story, and try to connect.
While grief is fresh, and your life feels like spontaneous moments of grabbing at straws, the wrong story or experience being shared will be infuriating. The teenage rant of “no one understands me” will raise its head and scream. And you’re right.
No one understands.
Even years after the fact, people will approach you to discuss their own experience. Rather than looking at these people as insensitive or detached, rather consider their unhealed grief. Focus for a moment on their grief, instead of your own. Offer empathy and a open heart. This rainbow and unicorn approach will have a multitude of effects. You are pardoned for a few brief moments of your consumable pain, and you offer an altruistic sentiment of understanding, which you in turn desperately need.
Most people spend the clear majority of their cognitive thinking time, thinking of themselves. “Majority” being well over 90%. Ego-centralism and grief have very little room to coincide. If we are to break the cycle and create an environment where grief can be “aired out” we will first need to make room for it.
I received an email from an unknown sender shortly after the death of my son. With time and chaos, the email has been lost, but the contents of that email are burned into me like a brand.
Grief is a Grand Piano.
A grand piano that is placed in the middle of your life, where guarantees and blissful ignorance once resided. It will be far too heavy to move out of the way, and you will find yourself bumping into it constantly. It will act as a center piece of your life, and you will hate its dominating presence every time you see or feel it.
With time, you will find the strength to push it into the corner, and allow dust to settle on its ivory keys. Although large and prominent, it will no longer be the center piece of your life.
Years will pass, and the grand piano will sit in the corner, a symbol of all that is left and something you cannot let go of. The propensity to get rid of it is now replaced with an innate desire to keep it, although too painful to approach.
A day will come when you realize you have accepted the presence of the grief, and built your life around it, allowing it to exist as a truth of your new self.
Someday, you will sit at that piano while peering out the window…… and you will learn to play. First you will play songs of suffering and pain, and then songs of memories and love. Each succession reaching new depths of hurt. But you’ll play, day after day after day……..until eventually you no longer crave what is lost, but rather find the courage to interlace the melodies into what remains and what will be.