Grief calls

Grief sucks.

I’ve thought that since the first time I encountered it and I am going to go right on thinking that.

Grief makes the world over in shades of grey, all the color drains out. Oh, in reality the color is still there, being seen by others, and waiting for you, I get that. It’s a perspective thing. It still sucks.

I wouldn’t say I’m an “old hand” at grief, but we have met several times. I know the drill. Or my drill anyway; I know how I respond. I don’t resist grief. For whatever reason, from the first time I went through it, I took that approach. I’m going to feel this, I’m going to go wherever it takes me. Like it or not.

I don’t apologize when I’m grieving. Generally people don’t want me to be down – I’ve gotten that reaction since I was a teenager – but who is happy and jolly all the time? I mean sincerely happy and jolly. In life, I laugh and smile a lot. I make a lot of smart remarks and quips. I look for the humor. Not forcing it, but like Dudley Moore said in Arthur, “sometimes I just think funny thoughts.” But when I grieve, things just aren’t all that funny. And I accept that.

Processing a death takes time, so that ultimately when it’s done, the loss is woven into who I am. I have to absorb it, so it becomes part of my essence. The losses I’ve had are not all lumped together. I see them individually and each finds a place to take up residence permanently.

I’ve never met anyone who resisted grief and didn’t pay for it in some (other) fashion. Grief always wants the check paid. It doesn’t really care how. Grief essentially says you can choose to deal with this directly OR indirectly, but you will deal with it; I’m not going anywhere, friend.

Some people start or ramp up drinking or drugging. Others leap into emotional or sexual entanglements to provide distraction and distance. Some double down in “keeping busy.” Some simply try to convince themselves the loss just isn’t that great and life can go on as before more or less. [I do know people attribute having a job to go to daily or a pet or children that need to be taken care of, as what saved them in grief and kept them going. The distinction I see here is that those are positive, life-affirming responses or at least neutral ones, not self-destructive by design.]

I can think of two times in my life I consciously “postponed” grief because I simply couldn’t handle it at the time. In one instance, I was already grieving a monumental loss and had no room in my psyche to take on a secondary loss. I knew later I would. Another time I was dealing with a big problem that left me drained and stressed out and I resisted truly knowing about the death. I gave myself permission to not know, and to not wholly feel it then. I have to admit those two particular losses don’t feel as “clean”, like a surgery that wasn’t performed correctly the first time.

There’s something else I want to say about this. If bereaved people enjoy a moment or laugh at something, they can feel it’s a betrayal or an indication that they really don’t feel all that badly about the death, and maybe others will think they are “over it.” I so disagree. What I’m describing is different from wholesale attempts at escaping, bypassing, or otherwise tricking grief. Having little moments is a coping mechanism and it provides hope. Grieving people need hope so that they can regain traction and move on with their life, which is not over. Life takes the living with it: “You’re coming with me.” And anyway, in bereavement, happy moments are just that – moments – and grief will be there waiting, ever so patiently. I always say you don’t have to force yourself to feel bad; you will soon enough.

Not long ago I read somewhere that grief might even be considered a form of mental illness. I can sort of see that. I’ve always been obsessive in grief, but that’s the way I’m wired up. I THINK my way through things as I’m feeling them. Obsessing over an issue helps me process. I have to look at it from every conceivable angle. In the case of loss, obsessing helps me believe it’s true. In the end that’s what I think the goal is after a death, to believe it really happened and to live with it.

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17 thoughts on “Grief calls

    1. writerinsoul Post author

      I don’t want to grieve, either, Tim, but I submit to it. I think grief avoided can lead to a kind of low-grade, on-going depression, or alternatively free-wheeling rage with random targets.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks, I believe it takes as long as it takes and there are markers (although I’m not dead-set on the Kubler-Ross stages or other similar descriptions of grief necessarily) that indicate progress.

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  1. Malcolm Greenhill

    “Having little moments is a coping mechanism and it provides hope.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I once had to persuade the doctors to remove the breathing tube from a close relative on life support. I quipped to the family that it was the first time I had killed someone. It sounds bad now but at the time it did relieve the tension.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thanks. I get that. And dark humor between the principal people involved has its place for sure. My rule of thumb is if you care or loved the person, you’re allowed to make jokes (but other people aren’t). It’s like being a member of a macabre club.

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  2. John Callaghan

    As always you have some really insightful things to say. I’m the kind of person where grief is a bit of a delayed reaction. At the time of an event I don’t always have a strong reaction but, given time to precess, it always comes.

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  3. SD Gates

    Brilliant. I hate grief as well, and I fight it, but it seems to linger. I haven’t had too much loss in my life, but those I have lost, I grieve a little bit every time I think of them, even years later.
    Such a beautifully written post!!!!!

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you so much! I’ve had big losses, medium ones, and little ones and I don’t always know in advance which will be which, you know? I know I’m changed by them permanently. –Colette

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  4. Sheila Moss

    I am very sorry for your loss. Grief and I are old friends. I agree with most of what you said, especially about needing to let yourself feel the pain and go through it instead of trying to suppress it. I think grief is a natural and normal reaction to a deep loss.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you. I can’t say I consider grief a friend, exactly, but some kind of dark companion. Agreed – natural and normal – but people seem increasingly unaccustomed or maybe just resistant to things that take time, even years to process. Or are encouraged to put a “good spin” on it, quickly.

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  5. BunKaryudo

    I hate grief too. It’s right up their with fear and loneliness as one of my least favorite emotions. Although I hate it, I think it may be a necessary emotion, though. It’s such a hard thing to lose someone close to us and working through our grief is the way we cope with it. At least, that’s always been my experience up to now.

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Agreed. I think I just don’t much enjoy my own “particular” reactions, yet I recognize them coming on, like “oh great, this again.” In my recent experience, the death was sudden, out of nowhere, a suicide in fact, so that adds a whole lot of extra stuff to think about.

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