We’re all different in the way we deal with loss. There’s no right way to grieve. We do the best we can.
Two weeks after Charlie died, when the shock wore off, I was desperate to see a grief counselor, and a friend set up an appointment for me at a local church. I told him, “I just want to make sure I do this right.” “Have you always been so concerned with doing things right?”
Yes, after mumbling uncertainty, I guessed I had.
For me, I think that meant moving forward, getting through a day, getting through a week, somehow. I had no intent of ever smiling again, ever laughing. Happiness was a word that did not exist in my vocabulary anymore. And that was okay for the time being. It took all the energy I had to go to work, earn a pay check, cover the bills, and take care of the dog, house, yard, and cars. And keep up with my writing and writing groups. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but these things were part of continuing to live. These were the things that would mold and shape the new me.
I wasn’t aware either that I dwelt in my loss and grief—maybe in a good way. I felt every emotion that came at me—anger, fear, loneliness, guilt, regret. I held them all for a good long while and let them fill every cell of my being as I worked my way through them and worked them out of me. I lingered with every reminder of him, from the way he printed his name to the anniversary date of the month he died. I relived it all regularly, I hurt to the bone, I cried more than I didn’t.
Yeah, I probably could have done it better. But that’s not the point. The point is, I did it. I faced my loss head on. I got down there in the bottom of the muddy ravine with it, struggled, screamed out in anguish from the bottom of my soul, and pulled my way up inch by inch. Hindsight, I think that was good.
I tell people now, “Grieve mightily.”
Since I’ve written a book on loss, grief, and rebuilding, I’ve had an opportunity to talk to people about loss, especially other women who know that one day, they, too, might lose their spouse. I see fight and flight. I see women who can embrace a resource like my book and strengthen and prepare themselves for the reality that is likely to come. I also see a few women who cannot continue reading because it is too painful.
Pain is inevitable. Feeling and knowing and dealing with the pain of loss—letting it wash over you, soak in, and then seep out—and following a zig-zag path to rebuilding and healing—from not being able to walk at all at first to stumbling and struggling to keeping up a slow stride—are part of grieving mightily. Knowing one person’s journey can provide reality and one way of facing that reality and living through it.
So GRIEVE MIGHTILY. It is your privilege to do that and a necessary and healing path to walk. It doesn’t mean you are going to be this way forever. It means you need to grieve in the present so you can get to the future and the forever.
I wonder if those who “grieve mightily” heal a little better than those who do not “grieve mightily.”
REMEMBER THE DRAGONFLIES: A MEMOIR OF GRIEF AND HEALING