I sat in my new therapists’s office. It was just after Christmas and New Years. Today was our first session together. After exchanging pleasantries, she said to me:
“When I got to work this morning, I got the news. And I feel bad because it’s our first session and it falls on me to tell you this — J., your counselor for the past six years passed away on Saturday. I’m sorry.”
** It was a huge punch in the gut **
He had stage four cancer that had gone undetected. One day he went up to the ER because he had a very sore throat. Three weeks later, he died. I didn’t get to say goodbye.
A second story:
Sarah lived with her father. Her mother died when she was just a baby.
Her father had sunken into a life of alcoholism and he found himself angry, bitter, and out of control. He was verbally and emotionally abusive toward Sarah.
Sarah found comfort in her relationship with her grandmother, Rose. After school, she would go there and do her homework. Her grandmother taught her to knit and sew and make macaroons.
Sarah successfully survived her youngest years and went to school for web and graphic design. She lived a big and blossoming life in the big, bold city.
Then one day she got a call. Her grandmother had passed away during the night. She quit school and became deeply depressed. She started to feel physical pain all the time. Many years later, Sarah would be officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
What is it? Queen Elizabeth the II, regarding the death of Princess Dianna, said, “Grief is the price we pay for having loved.”
Make no mistake, grief is not limited to those who have died. It’s possible to grieve a marriage that ends, a friend who moves far away, the loss of some social or professional status, the loss of one’s health or the disability of partner / child, the things that were once your dreams and goals that never became.
Grief is the experience of loss
Grief isn’t a predictable thing. Some people naturally work through it. Many people get stuck in what we in the biz call “complicated grief.”
There are many things one can do when grief comes. But, the truth is we don’t need more books or photo albums or the lighting of candles in churches. There isn’t anything wrong with those things, but one needn’t seek a complicated answer.
In my own grief, I quite often fail to see the forest through the trees. Nothing takes the pain away. But, pain is simply pain. Pain and suffering are different.
What if we accepted our grief?
What if we changed in such a way so as not to live in resistance to grief?
What if we just allowed ourselves to feel it?
Does grief have a color> A smell? A voice?