A date with grief.

This morning *that* song came on the radio, the song from last summer that went straight to my heart, the song that goes straight to my gut, and immediately takes me back to a place of deep sorrow. But then another one came on, and another, ALL songs from last summer that remind me of my husband, of his death. What is going on? Did someone make a medley of my horrendous summer?

Ah, the Grammys. Of course. Might need to avoid them this year.

To a normal person – a person *not* in grief – that might sound like the wrong thing to do, “avoiding” things that stir up memories. But I can tell you that grief has completely re-arranged my perception of what is right and wrong in terms of how we process a loss.

Grief is the strange “friend” who shows up in your world to rescue you. Suddenly you’ve got this constant companion. More like an invisible friend. One that you know is there, but no one else can see. And grief is an oddball. Sometimes comforting, but often unpredictable. Explosive. Clingy. Overbearing, then suddenly disappears, only to show up again, at the worst time. Crashing the party. Yes, that’s it. Grief is like a “frenemy”.

I often wonder why certain things completely derail me. Simple things, like not being able to keep my dog under control, not being able to find a certain piece of paper, last minute projects popping up at work…these things send me into a panic that I can’t control. Then it struck me today, as I was walking around with my old buddy grief, who I also can’t control, that when you are slapped in the face by someone’s death, you face the ultimate loss of “control”. The whole enchilada – the comfort of love, of relationship, the notion that we are not alone, the notion that we run the show – crumbles.

We spend a lot of time trying to convince ourselves that we have control over our lives. We organize, plan, build, marriages, homes, communities, families, all constructs that help us feel connected, safe, protected—not alone. But when someone dies, like a parent, a child…or your spouse, you realize that even those vows could not protect you from the one truth of this life, that we will all die, and that most of us do not get to orchestrate this “grand finale” for ourselves, or anyone else.

Man, it’s humbling. And enraging. And you fight against it as you continue into grief. Because every little loss of control reminds you of this greater loss of control. Whether it was cancer that started running the show, or mental illness, or a tragic turn of events…there was nothing you could have done. Yet, if you had the opportunity, there is nothing you wouldn’t have done, is there?

But the little things, they do matter. Like scheduling a “date-night” in a marriage, it’s a loving thing to do, to nurture the relationship. Or making an appointment with your therapist, or attending a grief support group. Going to yoga, writing in a journal, praying, listening to a sad song, spending time at a grave. It’s almost like making a date with grief. A small step along the way to help you prepare for the often uninvited guest. And accepting that while you can’t control everything, there are still choices you can make…that even though grief will continue to come around, to be around, an enigmatic frenemy, if you make some plans with it, then sometimes you can also make some plans without it.

This year, I just don’t feel like going to the Grammys with grief. And if that means I won’t go at all, that’s ok.

4 thoughts on “A date with grief.

  1. I couldn’t listen to the radio at all in the first months after my husband died, so I really identify with this post…and with the loss of control you’ve written so elegantly about.

  2. Good for you. Don’t go. There will be plenty of other times that your old pal grief will be there to accompany you. I wish sorrow was not such a constant companion but at the end of the day I wonder if we are truly more alive for it. And sometimes just sometimes I wish I was not nearly so alive to feel it. BUT….we dust off, we gather, we breathe and we continue. Much love to you my writing friend!

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