It hits us in the gut and threatens to buckle our knees and leave us crumpled on the floor racked helplessly with sobs. Grief possesses us like a massive muscle spasm. When we are in grief we have a sense that we will never again feel happiness or joy.
We will do just about anything to avoid it.
We hide it behind humor, twist it into anger, drink it or drug it into oblivion, distract it with a relationship, stuff it with food, or shop it to death.
When we are caught in grief, we never feel good. The best we can hope for is not-in-pain for a few minutes or a couple hours. Then, inevitably, something reminds us and we feel the creep of ache in our bellies.
Sometimes it stops in our bellies for awhile and we feel sick.
Other times the pain in our belly reaches through our chests and squeezes our hearts. At its worse, it radiates into our arms and legs making them heavy and feeling as if we ran a marathon. We feel tired all the time,
We sleep fitfully and wake in the darkness alone.
The dog looks at us with sympathy, and curls up next to us, as if its body could absorb some of the pain.
Our friends and family tell us it will get better in time. We know they mean well. Therapists, counselors and clergy tell us about the stages of grief and we smile at them and nod so that they will feel like they are being helpful.
“Time heals all wounds,” but that does not make the pain any better while time takes it own sweet time.
Perhaps the worst part of grieving is that the things we normally do to comfort ourselves give no comfort. When I can’t eat chocolate, I know I am in pain.
We wait. We wait until we can breathe again without suppressing a sigh; until breathing does not feel like a burden.
We wait because there is nothing else we can do.
Plain and Simple Advice
I wish I could give you some good advice about handling grief. Some people find talking about it helpful; others don’t. To say it’s part of living seems true but trite. To say it will get better seems true and not very comforting.
I will say one thing. If you think you might be stuck in your grief. If it’s been going on for a long time and is not getting better, you may need to talk to someone: a counselor, your minister, your priest. Grief was not meant to go on forever. Let someone help you.