Grieving is one of the most exhausting things we human’s experience. Nothing speaks to the way our heart, body and soul connect- nothing so completely breaks us open and lets us see how nothing about what we feel, or how we act, exists in a vacuum.
Before it happens, you think “heartbreak” is a metaphor; something we say to describe an indescribable feeling. But when we feel it so deep, the pain and the loss, you do feel it; you feel your heart crack open and you feel the cold grip your chest, making it hard to breathe, and you realize heartbreak isn’t just a metaphor.
When you’re grieving, the world is a minefield; and you feel like some days are nothing more than an exhausting attempt to not stumble onto anything that will cause an explosion (that’s why, when we grieve, so many of us stop moving all together- it feels so much safer).
Your bones feel bruised when you grieve. Your muscles become a knotted mess. Your jaw stuck in a tense clench. Your face aches, and your nose, cheeks and eyes are so dry and chapped from snot and tears.
Your exhausted but your mind won’t let you sleep. And it’s exhausting to fall asleep, and then wake up and remember all over again.
It’s exhausting because the world keeps spinning, and you’re drowning, just kicking it to stay above water, but you still have to get out of bed, you still have to shower and show up. Because the world isn’t stalled in the same way you are.
So you have to fake it for at least a little bit, you have to fake it- because realities timeline is much shorter than ours- the one that makes it impossible to forget how sad you are for more than a short window of time.
And your body takes the toll.
And your mind carries the burden; the burden of wondering “will it ever go away?” Because you can’t imagine thinking about anything else; you can’t imagine any emotion, any feeling, any thought being stronger then the emptiness of what you have lost.
Nothing energizes like hope, and in the midst of grief, when you know it’s just impossible to hope that it will ever hurt less. When you know that the hurt is so loud and so deep that you can’t imagine anything will ever touch you so loud or so deep again, it is so hard to hope. It’s hard to hope you will ever breathe without it hurting. And it’s exhausting to cling to whatever little piece of hope you have that one day you’ll be able to laugh again.
Grief isn’t unique in that you feel it both mentally and physically. When you feel joy, your mind sees the world as brighter, there is warmth in your chest and you stomach, you are filled with a well-being that spreads from head to toe. When you are angry, you feel your hand clench, you hear the blood pump in your ears and the red flush across your chest and face.
But the thing is, grief carries with it this amazing staying power. You can be happy, or angry, or sad, and it could change in one moment. But that doesn’t happen with grief. You carry it with you, maybe not forever, but you carry it with you for some time. Rarely does a moment or an instance snap you out of grief, but one moment or instance can plunge you into it. When you’re in it, you never completely don’t feel it. You may forget you feel it, because the dull ache is just a part of your life, but this is hard too; because you eventually remember why you are hurting, and it’s like punch in the stomach that takes your breath away.
Grief causes us to wrestle with long-sleeping parts of ourselves, and to grapple with our deepest questions and doubts about God, the world and our place in it.
Grief is powerful. Grief is necessary. It’s a part of loss, and you have to think that something much worse is happening inside you (which is hard to imagine) if you don’t grieve when you have lost someone or something dear to you. This is not to say that if it doesn’t last longer than another’s, you loved less or feel the loss less keenly, or that if it’s not expressed in the same more obvious way of another, you are heartless. But to not feel grief in the face of losing a part of who you are, that seems more unnatural then this terrible awful thing that seizes us and doesn’t let go.
And now in the middle of it. All I can do is feel it. Understand that right now, in this moment, it’s a part of my life. And that’s okay. The world can be a vicious place, and we grieve that even more when that viciousness touches us closely.
When memories are way too much to wade through, we don’t’ have too. When what we need is to remember her smile, or laugh, we do it, and we cry, and that’s okay. Or maybe we think we need it, but like dipping our toe into the too cold water, we realize we can’t, not now, not today, and we retreat. That’s okay.
When our bodies ache, we can get a massage or take a bubble bath. Knowing that the grief is still there, but right now maybe this is what we need to cope.
And that’s where I am at.
Calling my best friend to just describe what memory came to mind to make me cry; because I think if I get it out of me and let someone share it with me, it’s easier. And knowing that she wants to help me, and letting her do it isn’t a burden.
Smiling and nodding and saying “I’m doing good”, when some people ask me how I am, and bursting into tears when another ask me the exact same question in the exact same day.
Listening when my boyfriend tells me I don’t have to apologize for crying too much to put any makeup on or not having the energy to go do something fun.
Going on car rides with co-workers just to talk about everything in my head- and taking the list of grief counselors she gave me.
We keep people close by, to remind us to eat; to remind us to sleep; and, when we need it, remind us to seek help, because grief is hard. Sometimes our family and friends are enough to carry us in it, but sometimes we may need someone else, someone who is trained in navigating that terrain. And we don’t do this because grieving is bad. It’s not a way of saying “this thing your experiencing is an unnatural disease so seek help to get rid of it.”
It’s a recognition. That grieving is this unique, terrible, all-encompassing space; and we really aren’t built to carry that alone