I had dinner with a dear friend, someone I love very much, while I was in Vancouver last week.
She has been dealt a series of blows. Horrific, unfair and unreasonable blows, and she is struggling to recover. Indeed, she is struggling to stand back up.
I know something of grief, of sorrow and of the mighty unfairness that life slams down on you. I know something of being bent and unable to stand. I know something of the moment when you wake up in the morning and everything comes crashing back in and in a single instant you feel each loss keenly, realizing that you have lost it all and you still have to get out of bed.
Because I know something of this, I feel like I should have answers. Comfort.
People, few and far between to be true, did this for me. People came along and they told me that I would survive, if only because I had no other choice. They came and they offered wisdom and care and a listening ear.
I want to pay that forward. I cannot cary the load, but I can walk along beside them. I cannot fix anything, but I know the road and I am not frightened of it. I’ve already walked portions of it. I know the secret of grief –
There is no victory in grief. It’s not a thing you win. It’s complex, nebulous. There is the loss that put you into grief, whatever form that takes, but there is also the grief that you are not who you once were. The grief in the moment when you realize that you are inalterably changed. There is grief when you realize that everything will be hard, at least for a while. There is real pain when you realize that no one can tell you how long this will hurt for.
I wrote a post in March of 2008, based on an email I sent to an old teacher. I talked about how I did not know what the end would look like.
There will always be grief associated with Gabriel. I was supposed to be his mother. He was supposed to be here. This office I sit in should have been his bedroom. There should have been more children.
In a very real sense, until I die, I will not know what the end will look like. In another very real sense, the immediacy of grief ended. I have somehow incorporated my grief into my life – at least enough that I find joy and delight in the world, that I am not keening, that I live life fully. Gabriel and his siblings have become a memory that I take out sometimes, look at, mourn in different ways, and then put away, tucking them into a safe corner of my heart.
I would like to think that I can teach others how to do this – how to tuck our loved one’s away, how to adjust to all the facets of grief.
It’s not possible.
I was right in 2008 about this, even if I didn’t know much. So much of grief is personal, a forced march you endure on your own.
The most I can do is be a bit of a rest stop – a place to get food and water, a bit of energy for the next leg of the walk.
I do not like that answer to be sure, but I know it to be true.