Grief is a remarkable beast, layering itself like an onion, sneaking up on you with great stealth, and pouncing when you least expect it. It’s been nearly six years since my beloved son, Shaw-heen died, leaving behind a mother with a shattered heart and in complete shock. The grief doesn’t go away. I share this with you in hopes that it will help you understand your own grief, its layers, how they present themselves, and how to process them.
I remember attending a suicide survivors support group years ago. It was facilitated by a couple who’s sixteen-year-old had suicided some twenty years prior. They said the grief doesn’t get easier; your shoulders just get stronger. There are times when I would disagree. It has gotten easier, at least intermittently. For the first 2-3 years, I cried every day, often several times a day. Now, I cry a few times a week, most weeks.
In the last couple years, I’ve coached a mother through the loss of her son and a grandfather through the loss of his granddaughter. For some reason I can’t explain, the fourteen-year-old girl (the granddaughter) hit me harder than the adult son. I have found myself in the bathroom after her grandfather leaves, shedding tears of my own. I share this because I sense a connection to my own grief, even if it’s just another layer of the proverbial onion.
Yesterday, I had felt off all day. I woke up cranky when I usually wake up happy. I pushed my teenaged son to get ready so we could go hike. We go two hours on the weekends and I usually really enjoy his company, no matter what he chooses to talk about. I find humor, rather than annoyance, in his chosen topics. Not so yesterday morning. I found his topics negative and irritating. I was less interested in my garden in the afternoon, struggling to find energy to harvest the lettuce heads which were desperate to be cut and used as they began to bolt. I meditated for a longer time than usual, lacking the desire to get up. When I finally went in to cook dinner, a song came on about calling heaven and I burst into tears. Here was my answer to my annoyance, my low energy, and my lack of interest. Grief had been weighing me down all day.
By the end of the day, I understood why that couple in the suicide survivors group said the grief doesn’t get any better. My grief took me down into deep, racking sobs, which didn’t let up for an hour or more. Even afterwards, I still felt the ache of sadness, which brought me to tears several more times that evening. The depth of my sadness reminded me of how I felt in those first few months of grief. I developed a play list for grief with my son’s assistance, songs to help erupt the grief.
This morning, I woke up with the sadness still hovering around like a heavy cloak, weighing me down. I chose to go on my two-hour hike alone. The grief pushed its way out in more racking sobs, through the drive, the walk to the hike location, and part way up the hill. Finally, I was cleansed allowing the tall green trees, blue sky, and wild flowers to soothe my aching heart.
As the day wore on after my return from that soothing hike, my joy returned. Slogging through grief is painstaking, miserable, and lonely in this culture. But the rewards are worth it. I come through it able to feel joy and peace, able to help others, and able to care for my children with compassion.
If you have comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to write. I always welcome your energy when you send it my way.