What IS grief?
I’ve grieved many times in my life throughout many different situations and not all of them had to do with death. Grief is something that is hard to control because it’s sneaky. Much like Keith’s cancer which interrupted our lives like the devastation of a tsunami, grief rises and falls within me.
I have a made a conscious decision to allow grief to control me. That sounds odd from someone who tries to remain positive. What I mean by that is I am not running from it. I am absorbing every little crevice that grief is exploring in my heart and in my soul. It is painful. But it is rewarding and I am learning from it. I told a friend that I am embracing the void. There are times when I am just functioning and doing what needs to be done and there are times when I’m living life and laughing and enjoying all there is to enjoy. I can go many days and smile at my thoughts of Keith and remember adventures and tribulations and I am just fine. I can laugh with friends and feel him smiling at me because I am able to do so. There are times when I will be having a conversation and the tears just start falling and I can not control them. This is my conscious effort of allowing the grief in. I keep our bedtime ritual alive with outward prayer (my list is so long that now God and I have an understanding of who I am praying for unless I have specific requests) and then I either write to Keith in my journal [thank you again, Sue] and it always ends with holding Keith’s picture. Some nights I just smile at him and other nights, like last night in fact, it was a heavy dose of tears followed by I love you. He then rests on my nightstand with the huge smile he’s remembered for.
Exploring my grief is essential to my growth as a person. I have grieved the loss of family and the loss of our son. It didn’t matter that Keith, Jr. was Keith’s son and mine by marriage; he was my son and I loved him as much as my birth children. When we grieved together, I grieved silently as a mother and the void is immeasurable. I grieved as the wife of a man who lost his namesake. But mostly, we were able to grieve together and draw on our faith to make sense of something nonsensical. And I am still sad for losing him and my other family and friends – that kind of grief is never going to end. In the peaks and valleys of life, in the end, I will be at the peak with them.
And then there is now. I am embracing the void because it’s there. It’s now. It hurts and it stops me in my tracks at the oddest times. By embracing the void, by embracing the tears and sometimes fear that goes along with that, I feel Keith’s presence more. We talked so much about what death would look like for him and what life would look like for me. I am left now to my own devices to figure that out. I have so many things I’d like to do, some realistic and some not. What I think I want may not be what I actually want. I have a purpose – a big purpose and it is slowly coming to me. I am allowing grief and life choices to happen – I am using the experience of incredible love and intense pain to shape my future. In order to recharge our minds we must accept that a battery does not work unless there is a negative and a positive.
I have been reading a book given to me, “grieving mindfully” by Sameet M. Kumar, PH.D. I understand his concepts based on Buddhist teachings and much of it makes sense. I don’t necessarily agree with all that he has written and that’s ok, I’m finding it interesting for sure.
Before receiving this book, I made my conscious decision to embrace the pain and then I read the forward in the book and the following paragraph had me continue reading.
“Yet, though overwhelmed by the great upset of grief, we have a choice about how to respond. We can turn away from our own deep pain, seeking relief from distraction, numbing, and denial. Or we can turn toward the pain with compassionate attention and a willingness to allow what we are feeling to be just as it is.” – Jeffrey Brantley, MD.
When Keith was first diagnosed, we grieved. We were in a fog and then when he had his surgery and learned the extent of his disease, we grieved. When we realized that his disease became aggressive, we grieved. And once again, we grieved together. I have always had someone to grieve with me. And while my family and friends are also grieving, this is the one time in my life that I must do it on my own. And maybe, just maybe that is why I am doing it so purposefully. By allowing this pain to take it’s best shot, it allows Keith to remain there – just as he is meant to be. When in my deepest, darkest moments I hear him, I feel him and I sense that he is telling me “thank you”. I will never let go of this grief I have, but it won’t define me or my future.
God has a plan. He mapped out a tremendous mid-life for me and I have every bit of hope that my “golden years” will be every bit as rewarding. The dictionary tells me that I am 10 years too young to be in my golden years – but hey, who is counting?
I am grieving. I miss my husband, my best friend and the person I was to grow old with. I miss his smile, his thoughts and his embrace. I am grieving and it hurts so good.