There are some things going on right now which are making it impossible to ignore the subject of grief. I’ve had some pressure lately to explore this topic, and I am still incredibly resistant. You see, I’m not comfortable with grief. I know, “OMG! You’re a counselor! How are you not comfortable with grief??” I didn’t say that I can’t work with it… I just really don’t like it. Oddly enough, when the proverbial sh#* hits the fan, I’m pretty good. I spring into motion, I validate the feelings, I can really try to restore order when everyone turns on each other like wild dogs… But I hate the helplessness and the inevitability of it.
It can be beautiful too, we’ll get to that later… I find that we have a stereotypically predetermined idea of how grief should go… Constant tears and sadness, taking to one’s bed at the worst… Attacking the dishes at the best- That’s for women.
I think for men we expect them to be strong, swallow their feelings until they can cry to their lover at best… or beat the hell out of a stranger or their brother in a parking lot at worst. That’s what movies tell us. Right?
What most movies don’t tell us about are the moments. How you can get a glimpse of normal and then remember a detail that delivers a whole new gut punch. How looking at yourself in the mirror after spending a whole 24 hours in tears is the scariest out of body experience ever. How you wake up that next morning and for just a second you don’t remember… But then you do… And the world crashes all over again. How people flood in for the first couple of days, but then after they are over it, they want you to tell them good news about how you’re moving on….
That’s grief. That’s what I hate. I hate that grief wants answers about why this happened, but God/the Universe doesn’t have or won’t give those answers. I hate that there is good enough that could ever explain the pain we feel from loss.
However, these times are also opportunities for us to shine. There are moments of belly busting laughter, when sadness isn’t looking, when we can glimpse a future where everything will be ok again. There are moments of tenderness and forgiveness that might not have happened without this tragic catalyst. There is love between two people who are more worried about the other’s pain than they are about their own. There is a sense of shared strength and my personal favorite human trait, resilience that blinds us with brilliance and beauty. Good things can happen in this terrible space.
I feel like I have to take a little time to talk about gratitude here. You’ll see this from me again, but I think it has a particular place in the context of grief. I think that gratitude is a huge foundation of resilience. I also think that society can use it as a shameful way to invalidate our very valid feelings: “It can always be worse…” “At least you still have…”
All of this is true. We may have lost our mother, but we still have our father… We may have suffered an incredibly traumatic child birth, but at least we have a healthy baby… We lost a baby, but at least we still have the other baby…. We lost a leg, but we still have our hearing… Whatever! Being grateful for what we still have can give us strength and a sense of perspective, but it doesn’t take away the pain of the wound we’ve just experienced. You can be grateful and hurting at the same time. Most people always are…
I still don’t like grief, but some of the most poignant and memorable moments of my life were surrounded by it. Days and nights where I am confident that I acted as my best, most devastated, and authentic self. I felt awful and I felt alive, and I’m proud of it. My heart aches with those who are experiencing this right now. I wish I knew the right thing to say, but I know there is nothing. So, I’ll be sitting with you.
Live Well, Love More, Laugh Often
*Hilary Yurtin, MS is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Coach, and Thought-Partner. Her private practice is in Frisco, TX. She is an avid traveler who enjoys cooking, reading, writing and spending time with her family, husband, and cats.