Grieving to me always sounded more like a feeling or just what you said after someone you cared about died. But I really have begun to think of it as a process that is always happening not only for how we remember our loved ones who’ve passed on, but how we deal with any loss that affected us. A job, a friendship, a relationship, a time specific time in our lives. Grieving is almost a practice of sorts, something that we need to get better at in a weird way. Because I think my first dealings with grief just involved being sad and just thinking the mental and emotional work was done once I’d stopped crying or just started to move on.
My dad was certainly my great long term lesson in grieving. One of the constant things that happens anytime I’m grieving him is I say ‘I’m sorry.’ Now sometimes it’s me telling him I’m sorry that he got sick and died. That it happened to him so young. Sometimes I think it’s me apologizing to him for any harm or wrongdoing I may have done while he was here. Or after he was gone but knowing what he’d think of me or what I’d done. I think acknowledging how and why I was always apologizing to him in my grieving was I think an important step in working through my thoughts about him. I think that’s an example of why I think grieving is a process. To me it’s important to notice and acknowledge the real feelings that are coming out and when, because they certainly are different at different times and stages. But I think by doing that work, it’s helped me to really focus in on what I’m feeling and what I can do to better facilitate those emotions and work through them. And sometimes working through them means staying in them for a little while. Sometimes you need to just be sad or angry or hurt for a little while. I think in my life I’ve often tried to move through those as fast as possible because they were negative and I was a positive person. But that negativity isn’t going anywhere just because I want it to go away.
A strange thing that still happens to me with people I grieve is that I’ll still have moments where I forget the permanence of the loss of someone. I still on occasion will have the thought to call my Grandma Beem even though she’s been gone for two years now. She was such a constant presence for so long that it’s strange that her physical, tangible being is not here anymore. Part of my grieving process of my grandma was battling some regret that I didn’t appreciate just how amazing she was while she was here. I mean I loved her, I told her that, and we did lots of things together. But the magnitude of her commitment to our family and to her children and grandchildren really didn’t hit me until after she was gone. So that’s been a process I’ve tried to work on lately.
A couple years ago I went through a bit of a grieving process with my anxiety issues. Not so much the issues themselves, but the time, energy, money, and life experiences that it took from me. I remember just after turning 40 and I’d been doing so much better for a couple years at that point. I’m sure some of it was turning 40, but also, I just had this great feeling of sadness that my BEST years were past me. And I’d spent them in hospital programs, isolating, and at times wishing I wasn’t alive. I had such anger at what I felt was taken from me. I don’t want to go too much into this because the aging blog is in two days and I suppose this has a little more to do with that than grieving, but that was an important thing for me to process and work through. I look forward to writing about that more on Wednesday.
The last thing I want to write about grieving is friendships. I’ve been extremely fortunate that almost all of the primary friendships in my life have either remained to this day or just separated slowly and peacefully due to distance or divergence in life. And most of those connections that have withered could absolutely be started back up with a phone call or a reach out of some kind. Just meaning there aren’t negative feelings. But there have been some friendships that had to end. Just like a romantic relationship, going from having someone be a really important part of your life to then becoming no real part of your life, is very hard. The memories and experiences with them certainly don’t fade right away. So those are with you. But the connection is gone. There are a few friends out there who I no longer talk to that I wish I did. Circumstances of life, hurt feelings, broken hearts, one of (or both of) us just being an asshole, these are things that happen in life. I can accept all of those things and try and work through all of those things. And I have worked through a lot of them. But losing those meaningful connections has been tough. In some ways, tougher than death grieving. In my life, those who have died closest to me, I’ve been fortunate enough to either get closure with or work through closure after they’ve passed on. Which, by the way, is there ever any truly satisfying “closure?” I think we can get close, but I can’t imagine a relationship with anyone having full, complete, and satisfying closure. But with friends or relationships where the folks are still around, there isn’t that kind of closure. And there’s also the curiosity. What are they up to? How would they feel if I reached out? How would I feel if they reached out? Could we be friends again? Is it best just not to talk ever again? In the friendship type of grieving, it just feels like there aren’t really too many satisfying answers or closure. I think it’s just a recipe of time and acceptance of that part of your life moving on. But it is a painful type of loss.
I’m someone who tries to make a point of telling people I really love and care about that I love them. I think regret is a hard part of any grieving process and I don’t want the regret of someone passing or moving on from me in their life without knowing what they meant to me. To me regret has often been the toughest thing to grieve past. The work continues.