Warm Wing by Danette Relic
I’m not going to flower in with a delicate introduction. Sometimes things come up and shake everything around. Sometimes someone dies, right in the middle of our busy lives. All other losses seem to be metaphors for death.
Even when it’s a loss you are anticipating, Grief shows up like a surprise relative who has come to stay a while. Grief is suddenly at your door apologizing for the inconvenience as she steamrolls past you to set up camp on your sofa and dirty all your dishes. You are never sure how long Grief will stay. Grief might not even know. But now you have a needy house guest and everything is a little harder. Things don’t get done the way they used to. Laundry piles up. Calls go unreturned. Emails get lost. Deadlines missed…
This past week my nonna (Italian grandmother) passed away. She was 94 and lived a long amazing life. That doesn’t make losing her any easier. The more there is to love, the more there is to lose.
It’s been an intense couple of years for me. I’m quite honest about it. Ask anyone who has tried to make small talk with me in the last 18 months. Let’s just say that at first it felt like Grief showed up on my doorstep and then before I knew it I was running a bed and breakfast for Grief and a whole slew of her sad cousins; one for every loss in a season of great change. They are still here. I stopped trying to tell them apart.
So this past week, as my nonna died, I surrendered. I opened the door to Grief before she could knock.
“You might as well come in.” I said.
What’s one more?
Let me take a stand for my unexpected visitors for a moment.
First of all, I believe it is so important to make space for Grief when she shows up. Give her a nice bed and lots of fresh towels. The greater care you take of her the faster she will be back on her feet and on her way. If you try to quick fix Grief she may very well start to leave but then slip on the walk in front of your house and boom–you’ve got a lawsuit that could drag on for years and cost much more than the effort of putting out clean towels.
Don’t get me wrong, I still complain about how annoying it is to be running the Grief Bed & Breakfast, but while I complain, I also place a mint on each of their pillows.
Because really, if I draw from compassion, it is easy to see that Grief knows she is not exactly house guest of the year. She likely doesn’t want to be wandering around depending on other people and being a nuisance. She just wants to be accepted, just like the rest of us. So many people close their doors on Grief.
We do it with jokes, with productivity, with alcohol. We stuff other things into the spaces so that there is nowhere for Grief to sit. She just wants to sit for a while. She doesn’t mean to hurt anybody. It must be exhaustingly lonely to be Grief.
This week at the funeral home while we sat with Todd the funeral director to discuss arrangements, another viewing was going on down the hall. Suddenly the volume of the mourners rose like a stereo had been cranked. Wailing and screaming unlike anything I’ve heard filled the home. Todd got up and calmly closed the door, speaking diplomatically about how different cultures express grief at the viewings. He knew that this was the moment they were closing the casket for the last time, and that this was the part where the family screams, wails and even tugs on the coffin and one another.
Someone in my family said, “They have sedatives for that.”
I know. Expressions of grief are hard to witness. I also heard someone say about their spouse “He’s not good at funerals.” Meaning, he doesn’t keep a dry eye and a straight face.
Is it weird to say that I have started to fall in love with Grief? I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog. Seeing how so many people turn her away made my heart soften. I am doing my best to welcome her, and treat her with tenderness and compassion. I know at some point she’ll get bored of me and move on.
The truth is, whether we like it or not, she is the one who gets to decide when it’s time for her to go. You can try to kick her out, but she’ll find a window to climb back through. Or she’ll slip under the floorboards. Or she’ll egg your house. Trust me, just let her in. It’s so much easier in the long run.
If you are grieving a loss right now, see if you find this helpful: imagine Grief has shown up for the sole purpose of telling you a story. It’s your job to listen, that’s all. The more open you are to listening to her story, the sooner she can tell it and move on. If you keep interrupting her with over-working and other defense mechanisms, it just means she will patiently be sitting there on your sofa, waiting to read you the next chapter. Know that when her story is over, she will willingly pack up and move out. And often, she leaves little thank-you gifts behind. She can be amazingly generous when she’s been shown a little kindness.
My heart goes out to all you who are grieving right now. Be it the loss of a loved one, a home, a pet or a dream. I know that each loss is personal, and the supposed “smaller” losses can be especially painful because often they are grieved in secret.
You’re not alone. Your grief is not small.
Not only is it okay to feel this pain, it’s beautiful to feel this deeply. The more you feel the loss, the more you feel the love.