Take her in your arms and dance with her.
Fall into her.
Move and sway in time with her.
Hold her carefully.
Then, when the music is over,
Look her in the eyes and thank her for the dance.
Maybe the words are too kitschy. Maybe this image of Grief is overly sentimental and idealistic. I concede, that as lovely as the words look on the page, a part of me is choking as I read what I wrote. A piece of me wants to gag because I feel like I’m asking you to accept Grief, when I haven’t done this myself. The truth is, I don’t really like Grief. So, in my writing, I don’t want to imply that I have a smooth, functional relationship with Grief, because I don’t.
My connection with Grief is somewhat dysfunctional. I certainly don’t want to “hold her carefully”. Honestly, some days I want to march her cold hearted ass out the front door and slam it behind her. However, at the heart of it, everything I wrote is the truth – as I know it. I can’t edit any of my words because there is nothing I know about grieving that is more pure and unadulterated.
I am certain that if I am going to survive this mess, I can not resist Grief. I must fall into her. And, I must hold her carefully – whether I like it or not. I have to believe that Grief is not my enemy. I can’t hate her. And, I have to learn to exist with Grief because she isn’t going anywhere. Grief has unpacked and she’s here to stay.
This said, Grief is not my first choice for a dance partner. Grief is not overly warm, affectionate or accommodating. Rather, she is relentless and demanding, albeit honest. Grief is a straight shooter. As I dance with her, she confidently leans in and whispers her truths, and I appreciate this. I’ve always liked honest and forthright people; and, Grief, like these folk, is candid. I respect that.
Still, when Grief shows up, I always secretly hope that my dance card is full. Dancing with Grief is awkward because I don’t know the steps. She always leads and sometimes Grief takes me places I don’t want to go… However, over the last fourteen and a half months, I’ve learned… to give Grief the time she demands. And, I find I am better for the time I spend with her.
Grief is powerful and has taught me a lot about myself and life.
I have come to accept that dancing with Grief is part of learning to live again.
We must ‘dance’ with Grief because while moving together we learn to trust her direction.
As we sway and twirl, we become comfortable following Grief’s lead.
Dancing makes us agile.
It prepares us for our journey
down the twisted, thorny path Death has forced upon us.
And, here, our new found nimbleness serves us well.
I know some days, it is hard to invite grief in, but you aren’t given a choice. Grief follows death. That is the order of things.
At times, I admit that I am afraid to welcome Grief because I don’t know how long the visit will last. As you know, spending time with Grief is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. Sometimes Grief takes us down dark paths that are full of gnarled ruts and tangled roots. Along this pathway there are pot holes to navigate and the earth below our feet feels loamy and uncertain. However, I have accepted that we have to take these challenging walks, despite our fears, because these formidable footpaths lead toward our future.
Death made a dramatic appearance proceeding Grief and her involuntary dance lessons…
Mike and I were having the time of our lives when Death showed up and crashed the party. Death arrived without warning – no invitation in hand. Death was an arrogant, unannounced guest who pompously came to our house and knocked on the door. The banging was piercing and merciless. As long as I live, I will never forget the feeling of this moment.
In slow motion, I walked towards the door.
Instinctively, I knew that once I opened the door nothing would ever be the same.
I held the doorknob in my hand for what seemed like Eternity.
And, for a moment, time stood still – everything stopped.
The world froze.
And, for a split second it was unnaturally quiet.
Numbly, I threw open the door and Death took Mike.
And, just like that, he was gone – forever.
The moment itself was very matter of fact.
In that instant I felt everything and nothing all at once.
I sensed the gravity of the moment so heavily,
But, I could not feel a thing because
I think a part of me was actually dying,
and I was numbed in order to facilitate this process.
That cold Tuesday morning was not a good time for Death to arrive. Mike and I were busy planning our future. We were engrossed in living when Death interrupted us. Mike dying was imperceptible to me. I literally wandered around saying “Is this real?” I desperately needed someone to answer me. I could not accept what was happening. Mike was supposed to marry me. We were supposed to live happily ever after. Mike had promised me the world. But, that morning, I quickly realized that Death was not prepared to negotiate. There was no bartering. The life I knew was over.
Grief has been my constant companion since Mike died. Initially, Grief barged past the numbness and awkward silence. Grief stayed firmly planted, waiting for me to give her attention. As you know from experience, Grief is insistent. She is forceful and demanding.
If Grief were a person I wouldn’t keep company with her.
She is brazen.
She is dauntless and in your face.
And, if Grief actually had a face,
it’d be smeared with layers of cheap makeup.
She’d look at you with glittery, drunk eyes.
And, as Grief spoke you’d be distracted by her obscene red lips.
Grief is bold and overdone.
She is presumptuous,
and pronounces everything in heavy, smashed strokes.
Grief is unapologetic and she keeps you up at night with her audacious plans.
I find Grief off putting in too many ways to count;
but I’m growing used to her because she’s been with me a long time now.
In the early days, I naively fought against Grief. Those battles were not productive because Grief has more stamina than me. I did not ever win those sparring matches. So, nowadays, when Grief comes waltzing in, I just hold out my hand and let her lead. I now understand that Grief is here to help lead me back towards life.
These days, Grief is teaching me to dance alone. Many nights I stand under the stars and hold my hands out in front of me. I reluctantly let the air slip through my fingers as I close my hands. When I dance, my palms don’t feel Mike’s palms press back against mine. His fingers don’t interlock with mine anymore. I no longer feel his warm hand on the small of my back.
Now, I am alone. And, I stand grasping the nothingness that is now Mike.
As I dance, I yearn to rest my head on his chest. I ache to feel his arms around me as I stand alone in my backyard. I desperately want to feel Mike’s hands on me as we have our last dance. As I move to the music I wonder how the hell I am supposed to make it through the rest of my life without him. Without his touch. Without the sound of his voice. I don’t know the answers to these questions. For now, I am dancing solo because I have no choice. I don’t like it, but, nonetheless, I always look Grief in the eye and thank her for the dance when the music is over. I understand that although she is brash, Grief is here to help me find myself.
Go dance with your Grief,
4.3 years later I dance with Grief less often. With time and hard work, I have somehow come to accept Mike’s death in both my head AND my heart. Understand, that this took me years to accomplish, and I was not sure it would ever happen, but it did. Dancing with Grief allowed me to accept his death and this acceptance has given me my life back.