A really good friend recently lost his wife of 49 years. He and I were having a discussion about grief and he asked me, “How do you get over it?” I responded before I really had time to think, “You don’t. Over time, you think about it less during the day but the pain never changes.” I can’t imagine what it is like to lose your spouse of 49 years. I do know what loss feels like though. We talked about the fact that a book about how to truly handle death and loss doesn’t exist and that he should write it. (He is a gifted story teller!) I hope he does!
Loss is an inevitable part of life. We try to ignore that as we walk through our daily lives. Thinking about it would be a buzzkill! The fact that we don’t talk about it or think about it means it hits us like a brick wall when it actually happens. It could happen as a surprise, or we could be expecting it. Either way, we all know that no matter how prepared we think we are, we aren’t. Nothing can prepare us for the pain that comes with losing someone we love.
Grief is a snake, a sneaky, sneaky snake! It slithers around undetected and then shows up at the most inopportune times and bites you with all its might. That bite sucks the air out of your chest and leaves you gasping. I’ve lost several important loves in my life, my dad - J-Bird, my daughter - Elise, and several pregnancies. I can assure you that the grief and pain I feel for each of the losses is the same. The only difference is the amount of memories I was able to share with each of them. The sneaky snake grief associated with each of them creeps up on me at different times, strikes, and sinks its fangs in deep.
It has taken me awhile to learn that feeling the pain associated with grief is a gift. It’s only given to those who have experienced love. It’s a gift that reminds us we have been lucky enough to love and be loved. It shows up as pain, but if opened in the right way, it can lead to many smiles and wonderful thoughts about how great the love was. I believe a greater pain than grief would be to have never given or received love.
Today as I celebrate my angel daughter, Elise’s, 13 birthday I am crying and smiling. Of course, I wish I had been able to be her mom here on earth longer. I would’ve loved to have seen her grow up and be a sister to Della and Mary Ellis. But that is not what happened. I’ve learned to not think about why it happened nor what could have been. Those are bottomless pits of sadness that steal the joy of what truly happened. So as the tears fall, I smile and am grateful for the chance to have had her at all. I will look back at the pictures and memories and miss her. As I do that I like to think about the song, “Drops of Jupiter”, by Train. It is my favorite song of all time because I think of Elise flying around pain free and playing in the sky. These lyrics play my heartstrings every time:
“But tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance to dance along the light of day
And head back to the Milky Way?
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?”