Grief is mostly about dealing with loss. When my dad died in 1999 I experienced a tremendous sadness. I suffered for many weeks. I cried a lot then and found so much comfort in my familial and spiritual communities. I think, though, that, at that time I was not ready to really experience grief. Grief is different.
I’m guessing that grief takes many shapes and forms. It happens at all ages and in various ways. The manners with which we experience grief vary depending on who we each are and what we’re ready to embrace and feel.
My mom’s passing occurred just this past year. I am 61 years old now. I felt grief for the first time in my life. And, when I expressed that to my friend and rabbi, she said, “That is not new grief, Amy.” I wasn’t quite sure what she meant at that time. I only knew it was truth. Since then I have made some sense of her comment.
People say that grief subsides with time, and that it “gets easier.” I am finding that not to be so true. In fact, I’m finding that this is the unique characteristic about grief. Grief is forever. If it’s about loss then it will never ‘go away’. Maybe it will change. Perhaps I’ll learn better how to deal with the losses I’m experiencing. No doubt, however, identifying the losses is necessary before I can ever come to terms with it.
So if grief is about loss, what have I lost?
I will never have a verbal conversation with my mom again, nor will I ever gain the love from my parents that I always crave. My brothers and I may never share sibling play and have fun together. Perhaps I won’t have meaningful authentic conversations with one of my kids. I probably will never win the “Teacher of Year” award. I will never finish a marathon and I probably will never see China or Japan. These are all experiences in my life that I most likely will never have because, quite frankly, I won’t have the time to achieve them. I used to dream about some of these things when I was younger, but now I don’t have the same kind of time anymore. I mourn the loss of my youth!
And… the fact is, I never really had these things in the first place, although they might have been things I’ve wanted for many years! What makes me think I could have them now? And the grief comes, when I know I never will. The loss then, is letting go of the desire and the hope, and for me, with it goes the passion. I’ve lost a lot of my passion!
I suppose, in some ways, over the years, I’ve been preparing myself to “let go, let go, let go”. Well… I think I’m letting go. And the loss of what I never really had in the first place is passing through me painfully.
There just isn’t enough time left for me to do it all. I must, instead, prioritize and do those things that matter the most with those people who love to be with me too. And, just like Winston Churchill says, “When you’re going through hell…keep going!”