I saw this poem on facebook the other day and reposted it. Something I rarely do. But this one . . . this one was different. It spoke to my heart about loss and death and grief in a way that is more real than what we normally hear before we experience it.
I had my own notion of grief.
I thought it was the sad time
That followed the death of
Someone you love.
And you had to push through it
To get to the other side.
But I’m learning there is no other side.
There is no pushing through.
But rather, there is absorption.
And grief is not something you complete,
But rather, you endure.
Grief is not a task to finish
And move on,
But an element of yourself –
An alteration of your being.
A new way of seeing.
A new definition of self.
By Gwen Flowers
Over the course of 4 years, from 1998 to 2002, my family lost a friend, family member, co-worker, or good acquaintance every other month on average. We went to memorial service after memorial service. Those losses did not affect me as much as the more recent ones. The closer ones. The really close and personal ones.
My husband of 34 plus years has been gone almost four and a half years. He died a slow long death, after heart surgery, which he did well after, then cancer. I still am hit by things that make me cry. A phase someone says the way he would say it. A picture the children post of them with their dad. Yellow roses in front of a store, he brought me yellow roses the first time he was on my door step. One of his parodies being sung by a friend. Shearing the alpacas without him. The things that are unexpected that trigger a memory.
I have at time shouldered through, sometimes I had no choice. Like returning to the classroom to teach 3 weeks after his death and 3 days after his memorial service and 2 days after the children and I scattering his ashes. Or like in the middle of shearing Dukka, our big male alpaca, and remembering my husband was a great sport and held his head and sometimes would get spit on. Or to see the improvements I made on the farm that we had dreamed of, but he was too weak to do any of it.
We weathered many things together, all the moves we made, the loss of children and parents, the surviving of cancer for both of us, creating a farm, and the ups and downs (mostly ups) of raising two fine daughters. We had a great deal of living.
Those that have never gone through large losses say ‘get over it’ but you don’t. They are a part of you. I learned a long time ago that you can’t judge another until you have walked a mile in their moccasins. The thing is you can’t, they don’t fit you. Mine have seen lots of road and much dust. And some amazing sights too.
This poem on grief can as easily apply to more recent losses for me that have hit me just as hard. I never thought that I would have such a feeling of loss and grief about selling my business and my farm. I felt, and still do at time, like I was hit by a truck.
But the business (the fiber mill) was like a child that I gave birth to. I worked long and hard to create it and worked long hours to see it grow. It was bittersweet to have to say good bye as I delivered the last order, as I saw the machines loaded onto the semi-truck in my driveway, as I trained the new owner then cried as I plied my last bit of yarn in his shop. And at that moment, I didn’t know it would be the last yarn I might ever have commercially spun.
Just like in a marriage, the mill provided a sense of purpose in life. My place to be in the world, who I was. I had a community that I belonged in more than I had before. It was my personal identity, just mine. There was pride, not the kind that is boastful, but the kind of having done a great job and having given it your all and you know it.
After moving the business off the farm, I had to sell the farm too. The home we were excited to move to. The place to have the business and the farm. To be living near the beach. All the things we had hoped for. And the home my husband died in.
Clearing out old boxes of a lifetime of not just my things, but my husbands and some things that were my children’s, was an enormous and emotional task. I was downsizing, so I had to sell and give away so much of what made our home a home to us. More loss and reminders, more grieving. Yes, both sales were voluntary, but I could not work so hard in the mill as I had once done. My life was changing, but that doesn’t make them any less of a loss, does not create any less grief.
In the span of 18 months, I lost my dog, Belle, who had been with my for 13 years and saw me through many hard times; my business and source of most of my income; my home and farm; my 4 old alpacas also died within that span of time one with me for 14 years, the other three for 13 years; my step mother to cancer; and many other things, some big and some small. I now am caring for my elderly father in his home, away from friends and my support system, until he too passes. I cherish every day with him, but this too is another loss since you can grieve a loss before it happens.
So, you endure the grief. You cry whenever and wherever you need to.
You absorb this new wrinkle into your life. There is no ironing it out.
You adjust the best you can. You rearrange your life to go around this hole that is always there.
And you accept that life will never be like it was ever again. It will be different.
Mostly it gets easier. Mostly you do go on in that you have new experiences and hopefully meet new people. Mostly it’s learning a new way of living, not forgetting the people and things you grieve, but knowing you’re a better person because of them. Hopefully you become a more caring person, a more compassionate person, a most loving person, and a person who can help others on their journey through grief.
Grief is just grief. Loss is just loss. It may take you time to understand your new place in your community and your world. It will take time to see your new way. It will change you.
You will find joy and peace and laughter again in your life.