I don’t talk openly about the day Ken died. It’s not because it floods my mind with details I want to forget or that it sets me back to a place I try to stay on the other side of. It’s because my reality, the one that I now live, is all the awkwardness that death has to offer and the words that spill across my lips with a misunderstood ease makes people uncomfortable. Even today, with the burden of that experience, I’m still unable to formulate smart and beautiful words to say to someone who has experienced their own loss. Grief has a way of stunting emotions and leaving those that remain with no place to go.
I’m not sure anyone or anything could have accurately described the unpredictable beast we call grief. There are layers after layers of shit and just when you think you’ve conquered “it”, you find yourself cycling through intense sadness on an average Tuesday, in the middle of what you were hoping is finally an ordinary life. Dates on the calendar become a chore to manage as the anticipation of pain magnifies as the days unravel. And there’s a strange place you stand between the last time you saw them and the unknown number of days until you meet again.
Grief is feeling nothing and then everything at once. It’s the absence of trust that life will give more than it takes from you. It’s seeing the same kind of vehicle they drove and even though you know it’s not them you still break your neck double checking that it’s not. It’s realizing all over again that you’re grocery shopping for only yourself and then calling your friend to help you stop crying all over the kale you’re holding in your hands. Grief is a bunch of feelings that you have no where else to put. It’s hearing a song or missing the sound of a laugh that was reserved just for you. It’s a living, breathing emotion that won’t be ignored.
Grief is unpredictable and makes you doubt that you’ll ever feel the same again. There have been times that if heaven would have made me a good enough offer I would have taken it just to stop feeling. But, I don’t think you’re supposed to come out on the other side of it the same. I don’t know if it’s even possible. I’m definitely not the same person I was four years ago. That’s neither a good or a bad thing- it’s just how it is. I’m a much kinder being with an infinite amount of grace. I’m also scared to feel or worse yet that I won’t be able to feel the things I’m missing for another being. I worry about the incredible messiness in my mind at times and if I can’t deal with myself then how the fuck will anyone else? Is there someone that won’t be bothered by my flaws or weirdness or my overthinking mind? I suppose one day I’ll find out when my curiosity outweighs my need for calculated risk.
I can tell you what grief is not. It’s not about closure because there isn’t any. It isn’t guilt or anger free. It isn’t a one size fits all. It doesn’t always give you the highlight reel- it plays the shittiest part of it all over and over. It isn’t assigned a certain number of days and it isn’t a place to pull over and park. Grief isn’t reserved solely for the loss of a life. It transfers to the living, to people who have unwoven from the fabric of our lives and to situations that no longer exist or benefit us no matter how much we wanted them to. You will grieve the living right along with those that have passed.
There’s no timer to set, no magic formula of sunrises and sunsets that make it feel less intense, and there’s no escaping from going through the motions. Riding the waves of grief has noting to do with time- it’s about acceptance, that’s what heals us. There’s the desire to wake up every day not knowing the ending just like you did the day the world stop spinning. This whole marrying of the past and present is about finding the tolerable in the intolerable and ways to live while maneuvering the memories.
All of this is so personal and there isn’t a rule book or a strategy for everyone- I’m just out here winging it the best way I know how in this moment. For me it’s been the struggle to get rid of the habits I formed to survive and to create new ones for the life I want. It’s been about becoming ready to have relationships and not situationships where things are void of labels and depth. It’s been about learning to know the truth by the way it feels. We don’t try and catch falling knives because we know they will cut us. The same principle applies to rebuilding a life with grief in the shadows-there are painful parts to our story but to go back and relive those constantly will eventually cut us off from the life we deserve to live.
If I think about all that’s changed in my life over the last four years it would have been easy to sit and worship the grave of my suffering but, I didn’t. I chose to not sit in one place and dig graves. I make the choice every day to grow in life. I want to feel my life while I’m in it. I still make mistakes and sometimes my mind is like a box of fireworks and my hands are full of matches. I don’t wish for happiness any more. I don’t expect to be happy all the time but I do wish for courage, strength, and a continued sense of humor and wit to see me through the days when grief comes knocking. A good life for me is a collection of happy moments and I hope I continue to enjoy my life as simply as that.