Nothing can prepare us for the experience of loss and grief. We may think we know how we are going to react but we don’t and it is different for everyone.
Grief is the unwanted visitor that hangs around outside listening to the unthinkable news being delivered. It may wait a few minutes but then it charges the door and envelopes us. Eventually, we become so exhausted that we don’t see grief and it sneaks off into a corner and may even leave for a few hours but then it’s back banging on the door. We open it, recognize it and slam the door. I can’t, we think. Not now. Leave me alone.
Grief slinks away, looking over its shoulder mouthing I’ll be back when you least expect it.
We are out doing something perfectly ordinary like grocery shopping and we run into grief in the coffee aisle. It’s kneeling in front of the coffee studying the different packages and springs up as we notice the Dunkin Donut package of whole beans that our loved one used to plunge his nose in and take a good long sniff. Tears stream down our face, our hand frozen in mid-reach for the bag of coffee. Kind people ask if we are ok. We nod and move on leaving the coffee bag on the shelf.
People visit, bring food, send flowers and grief hangs around the periphery. We are so busy, we miss grief’s face in the crowd. Weeks go by, we are still numb going through the motions wondering if we will ever enjoy anything again.
The doorbell rings. It’s grief. We open the door. What do you want? They stand there, head down, shoulders slumped, hands in their pocket like a sullen teenager that wants to be noticed. Fine, we say and invite grief in for a chat.
Grief settles in on the couch. They sip their coffee waiting. We don’t want you around, we say. We’ve had enough. You need to go. We want our life back we scream.
But grief keeps showing up. Sometimes it’s for morning coffee, sometimes it’s at 3am, and sometimes it’s in the middle of the afternoon.
When we invite grief in we notice that grief lays down on the couch and we have the sudden realization that they are here to stay like a house guest that just doesn’t leave. Grief seems to have matured through the weeks and one day during morning coffee, grief reminds us of a wonderful story about our loved one. We find ourselves laughing along with grief as grief points out the time we got our father a beer when he was mowing the lawn complete with ice cubes. He said he wanted a cold beer. We watched him chug it and then throw the cubes on the freshly mown grass. He never said a word but just thanked us and continued mowing. Laughter ends in tears but they are happier tears.
Grief becomes a shadow following behind us where ever we go but they are like a professional detective keeping us in sight but trying not to let us know they are there. Promises were made with grief. They can continue to live with us as long as they quit sneaking up in the worst moments, behave when company is around, and don’t bother us in public. We promise grief that we wouldn’t ignore them and that we would sit down with them on a regular basis.
Grief is our constant companion. Not one we would have chosen but one foisted upon us. It may not be the visitor we want but grief visits anyway so it is good to invite grief in for a talk, get acquainted, and set up some ground rules.
I lived without grief for many years. Yes, I experienced small losses but it wasn’t until my father died that I met grief at the door. We have an understanding, grief and I. For the most part our relationship works. We are comfortable with each other.