The day before my birthday in 2021, I wrote this original piece below over on my Medium account (modified slightly for this post). Since we’re rapidly coming up upon the anniversary of Mario’s expiry date, I revisited it. I definitely feel like I’m in a different place now 3 years hence, but I also feel that grief is now intertwined deeply into my being. To me, it isn’t something “dark” or “dreaded”. I do admit to being a tad “Gothy” but seriously, grief is one of the human emotions. To me, to shun it or pretend it just went away, would be flippant.
2/10/21 is a date for me that will forever embody big emotions.
I can’t usually make it through a whole Ted talk, but every now and then, I stumble on a good one. “The Adventure of Grief” showed up in my YouTube sidebar this evening and I thought what the hell, I’ll click on it because I’m always up for a good adventure. It ended up being one of the ones I made it through and truly resonated with.
“You need to feel that emotional abyss. You need to let that abyss swallow you. Now you can see why I don’t get invited to parties very much.”
Talk like this is not for everyone.
Everyone processes grief in their own particular way (and no one can tell you how to experience it). If someone truly can not face their abyss alone or are consumed with depression on top of grief, I certainly don’t advocate it — those people should reach out and find support to process. But pure grief is not depression nor do I suffer with depression — even at a time of loss. Sadness, yes, depression no. The sun still rises. The spring flowers are blooming. My cats are still purring. All around me the universe is buzzing with beauty and magic. At the same time, I fully embrace there is a power and beauty in being there for the literal end of a life as well, which I experienced and is consequently the reason for my state of grief.
There is no light without darkness.
I find that if I block the negative emotions, it’s very likely I’ll end up blocking the positive ones that counter balance them. Embracing the emotional abyss that grief may induce doesn’t equal “abandon all hope” to me. It is not embracing darkness and despair. It is simply allowing yourself to fully experience and work through all that grief brings.
I’ve been to several abysses in my life and experiencing them fully allows me to gain much more than closing myself off to them. It’s a journey and a process and if you take shortcuts along the way, those shortcuts may actually turn into long cuts or inhibit you from fully processing the things that really do need to be processed.
No one taught me this.
My first real adventure with grief came at age 11. I remember it was a day when my mom was off from work. The phone rang and I answered it. Someone was asking to speak with my mom. She was out in the front yard tending to rose bushes. She came in, took the phone, and listened. Then she spoke slowly and calmly. It was a short call. After the call, she broke down in tears. I had never actually seen my mom cry. She then told me that her mom, my grandmother, had just died.
I remember people trying to shield me from experiencing grief. My mom is one of the “move on” and “be strong” people, which I can respect, but I am an empathetic, emotional jellyfish and always have been (side note, whether you put a lot of stock in the zodiac or not, I’ve found most Pisces people are empathetic, emotional, jellyfish). I wanted to fully experience the gravity of the situation. My mom was going to make travel plans to go to the funeral in Pennsylvania and I begged her to take me along. After much nagging, she finally agreed.
I’ll never forget being at the funeral home. The coffin containing my grandmother was about 30 feet away from me, surrounded by floral displays and in between that space were a ton of chairs filled with grieving family and friends. When everyone had said their piece, people got up and started milling about. My mom, aunts, and cousins were all telling me to “look away” or not go up to the coffin. Those options were the very last things I wanted to do. I was determined to go up there and so I did.
I had never seen a dead human being before, in person, let alone one I was related to. I didn’t really get to spend a ton of time with my maternal grandmother but I loved her nonetheless and my memories of her have always been fond. The image of her laid out in the coffin is burned into my memory for all time and so is the emotion that accompanied it, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had not faced my fear and walked up there, I would have forever wondered what would have happened if I did? What would I have seen? What would I have felt?
When we returned home, the gravity of the situation was not lost on me. While my mom put on a face and did the “be strong” thing, I would sit in my room at night, in the dark, and process. Looking back, I was going through the stages of grief and allowing myself to feel all the emotions, right up to the lack of emotion.
Loss of a human is not the only death-induced grief. Grief comes from many sources, physical death just being one of the biggies.
One thing I can say for certain is each loss and subsequent grief is uniquely different … each one, a new adventure.