We're living in modern times. People are more open about their lives and choices than at any other time in history. People speak their minds and demand to be heard. We talk openly about most every topic including all those things that were hidden in our ancestor’s closets. Yet there is something about death and the grieving process that remains mysterious. Aside from the few moments at the funeral home where questions about the cause of death and kind words are spoken, the conversation rarely continues beyond the exit from the burial site.
The moment you arrive home, slip your shoes off and sit down is the moment the real stuff of it happens. Even if you're surrounded by a room of well meaning family and friends, there is something inside of you that knows that you are heading into a strange and dark place, alone.
I've noticed this through the years at times of grief in my own life. There is a hidden message that it's not something to talk about. People know you are grieving and ask how you are doing. You have barely enough time to form a response and they are looking over your shoulder to see who else has entered the room or they quickly excuse themselves, they're late for an appointment. There is a pat on the shoulder or a quick hug and a promise to call you soon. The call doesn't come.
Sometimes I wonder if it's because it reminds people of their own mortality. Sometimes I wonder if it's because people think if they get too close to you and "it", that they will somehow catch it like a nasty virus. I wonder if it reminds them of their own grief experience, the one that they fully didn't go through. They tucked it away into a tidy little compartment because no one wanted to talk to them about it either. Your grief reminds them of theirs and it's sitting just under the surface waiting to be let out.
Death makes people scatter.
Grief can take a long time to go through. It is gruelling. It's not just about the missing the person or the thing that you once had in your life. It's about peeling back the layers and really taking a good look at yourself and your life and the people in it. It's about leaving behind who you used to be and becoming someone who you don't know yet. You may have had inkling but you might have been too busy to go there before. Grief has a way of clearing out your life, your closets and any distraction. It stops you in your tracks and urges you to dig. It's about feeling uncomfortable while you're doing it. It's about taking your first steps on a road you hadn't planned on being on. It's about getting comfortable with all parts of you, even the parts you might have considered ugly. It's about being vulnerable and learning how to feel ok despite not feeling ok. It's about learning to be comfortable with discomfort.
It's not like in the movies where the grieving person sobs at the graveside and after the commercial break, they've bought a vineyard or a horse as they stare out at the sunset and breathe deeply into this wonderful new life.
The commercial blocked out the part about the disappointments and the stupid things people say as you grieve. It doesn't show the family feuds over what could have been done or what might've been or what item of the deceased that this one took or that one gave away. It doesn't tell you the parts where you question everything that you have known and find out things you wish you hadn't.
It doesn't tell you how to be this new person that is evolving inside of you, around the people who clearly are in your life and were attracted there because of who you used to be. It doesn't tell you about the people who leave your life because of it and the ones who stick around because you're finally who they always sensed you would be. Your growing opened the door to their own and you find yourself discovering each other for the first time as your real selves.
Death is a difficult thing to comprehend. Grief is just like the story of the scary monster under the bed. If you turn on the light and stare it in the face, you find out it's not what you thought it was.
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