I had a bit of a eureka today.
There are two groups of people in this world: those who have been thrust into the tsunami that is grief and those who hope to outrun the storm.
Those of us in the eye of the hurricane struggle. We lament. We wail. Our lives have been forever changed and we hate it. We abhor it.
Right now I am one of the haters. Never thought I’d say that, but there you go. I hate grief.
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I used to think that sat all on me. I used to think grief was my problem to deal with, to handle. Grief randomly happened to me, so it was logically my own battle.
I think a lot of us think that. We think our grief is our own issue. It’s thrust upon us personally and it is ours, personally, to deal with, to move past and “get over.”
Not exactly right.
Our culture is missing the point on grief.
Let’s start from the beginning. Grief is a part of life, however unfortunate. We all, most likely, will experience grief at some point during our time on planet earth. So why, then, are we so afraid of those in the throes of grief?
Maybe because it could be us some day, or even tomorrow morning?
The societal issue of grief doesn’t lie with those who are grieving. We can’t deny our emotions. We are honest to the core (or at least to the tear ducts). And that often makes others anxious and fearful.
It’s hard to be in the company of someone crushed by grief. To see them sad, or worse yet, sobbing. It makes people uncomfortable, so they avoid it. They avoid those who are grieving. And by doing so, they multiply the devastation that grief preys upon.
Because here’s the point as succinct as I can make it: my husband stopped breathing and left this earth. That makes me terribly sad. I miss him. Forever — always — a part of me will be terribly sad; a part of me will miss him. But that isn’t my whole being. It isn’t even the majority of my being. Grief may always possess a portion of me, but it doesn’t have to define me.
Grief isn’t me. And I don’t want to be defined by it.
I feel your fear, just as sure as I feel my own pain. I understand. Not long ago I had the same fear you feel and I’d trade my pain for that fear in a heartbeat. I’d love to continue trying to outrun the storm that caught up with me all too soon.
But the storm got me, and my husband left this earth. He is gone. I am not.
I’m still here. I’m still alive. I still have all the human needs I had before I lost my husband. Just because he’s gone doesn’t mean I’m done. I don’t want to be overlooked or forgotten. I still live and breathe. My heart is still beating. I still laugh. I still want to laugh. I still have joy. I still strive for and choose joy. I still enjoy a cup of morning coffee, a comfy blanket, a warm shower and the sunshine on my face. I’m still me.
I didn’t die. But sometimes it feels like I did. I absolutely know you don’t want me to feel this way, and I know you are horrified to think that I possibly do. I’m sorry. I don’t want to do or say anything that makes you more uncomfortable than my grief already has. That is not my intent, in any way, shape or form.
Someday I will join my beloved husband; just like you will join the loved ones who go before you. But until then, I long to fully live the life I set out to live when I came to earth. Please don’t write me off just yet. Don’t forget about me. Let’s share a laugh together. Let’s share joy.
I’m still here.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.