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Let One Wave Take You Down.

grief

Whenever I learn something new about psychology, or grief, I tend to word it poetically and make a photo post out of it.

It’s just one of the many, or few, successful ways I process and cope. It’s my learning as I go along. I like to believe that it adds fresh layers to my ancient layers – and lets the wilting and withering ones finally fall away. There’s always a higher, sure, but there’s always a lower rung to climb from too. I like this building life – and how we think we have it all figured out at 15, then at 25, and then at 35, only to realize that even at 95, if we’re lucky, we’ll still be searching and building.

I love the way she sought, learned and yearned. Until the end.

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If grief is an ocean, it comes in waves and recessions. You can never let it overwhelm or drown you. You can never let it dry or drought you either. It’s a balancing act that we try to maintain – just like toddlers standing in the ocean for the first time, and even second time, and 72nd time. You want to feel the water – bone-cold and shocking – but not too much, not at once. You also want to feel the dry sand – for as long as you feel comfortable. Until you get so hot and bothered, you have to feel the bone-cold shock again. Just a bit at a time. You only take what you can handle. Even if you fall. You can get up again.

You have help.

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I don’t know if you can be good or bad at grieving, but I’ve always given myself low marks – which isn’t so weird because I give myself low marks for most things. I’ve learned that there is a narrow gap for grieving. I know that you can overwhelm yourself by trying to do too much at once, and I know that you can also block out too much at once. Both seem traumatizing.

So I’ve been asking people lately for professional and non-professional opinions. How do you sit in your grief comfortably? What if it’s not ancient or even recent? What if it just is? They all say it’s about taking the steps, one small step at a time, but only enough to as not to overwhelm yourself. Sit in a memory or a photo, and you can cry or meditate or shout. The point is to acknowledge the grief within yourself and without yourself, and give yourself a healthy dose of it – only to let it go.

Put it away until later. Compartmentalize.

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Come again some other day. The steps will get bigger, as you learn to grieve. As I do, really. Maybe you already know how.

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Today I pulled a memory out of my pocket. I’m about to visit Scarlet at school to have lunch with her. It means so much to her and there are only three weeks left of school – it’s time. I can’t help thinking about my grandmother – my children’s great-grandmother. She passed away last June. We used to visit her – whether in New Hampshire or in Florida – and she made this famous lunch spread. She’d use a lazy susan – a rotating tray – and it would be filled with cold cuts, cheese, sweet pickles, mustard & ketchup – and we’d spin and spin as we made our sandwiches. After a long journey, it was just the thing.

Oh, how sad it is that I will never eat that exact lunch again.

And oh, how happy it is that I can make that lunch for my kids and grandkids and friends and family.

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Lunch lives on. So does life.

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Sit in it. Let that big wave come and even let it knock you down, because you have the knowledge and skills to get back up again. Let bigger waves come, even more close together this time and next time, and next time. Always get back up again.

grief

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107 Comments

  1. Frist? Really?

    Probably not, but that’s fine. This one grazed so painfully close to the core. But it was like a really sore muscle that hurts to be rubbed but you want to have it rubbed anyway. All of this. Because even the best memories comes with grief of “why not again?” and even the lonely times when the waves are too strong or the sand too hot carry with them the hope that the calm after the wave will reveal a shell or at least calm waters and that when the sun starts to set, the sand will cool just enough that you can stand and stare at the horizon.

    Thank you for this, Tamara, right now.

    1. Totally frist. I know how it can be – typing out that comment and putting thought into it – and wondering if anyone (or three) commented in the meantime!
      “Why not again?” is a tough one for me – with grief from death and with grief from heartbreak. Sometimes I can’t even tell the difference. I just know it screams.
      You’re welcome, right now! And thank you.

  2. Aw, Tamara I get this so completely as I often think about the fact that with both my grandmother and grandfather that I will never get to have another day let alone an hour or minutes with them. I miss them both still terribly and took me years after my grandfather (he went first back in 1999) then again with my grandmother, too to gain some level of peace. And yet still my grief comes back in waves at time. Wishing you better peace at the very least and a wonderful lunch date with Scarlet, too today.

    1. That’s such a tough thought for me – the never again. And Scarlet often asks about then when someone passes away. Or even when we gave Bella away, Scarlet said, “Wait, how could I never see her again?”
      In truth, the cat is fine and being re-homed but it crushed my heart.

  3. I read a quote the other day and I cannot remember the wording, something to the effect of…”If someone was worth loving deeply, they are worth grieving deeply too.” Grief is such a subjective thing, different to all of us, the lengths, depths and breadth of it all. My advice, don’t swallow it so completely that it takes you over years later. Allow it in, feel as much as you can, revisit later. But remember, you grieve deeply because you love deeply, and it is worth it. xo

    1. That’s what I’ve been guilty of in the past – swallowing it whole and having it come out in spurts down the line. That’s why I’ve been on a mission lately to not do that!

      1. Yeah, me too. I swallow it whole and then it consumes me, I forget the good stuff cause I am trying so hard to keep the bad stuff in, I was only relating what I knew, not that I know how to not do it! LOL! Good mission to be on. That’s what my Letting Go series is about, telling the tale, good, bad and ugly, if I tell it and get through it I can let it go? Right? Own up to it, relive it and have it not hurt so bad, right? I hope it works, I am ready to let it go!

  4. *commenting from my phone, fingers crossed it works!*

    This is probably the best description I’ve heard for grief. I lost my grandma when I was 15, and another just a few months ago. The pain and grief is equal for them both, no matter the time that has passed. It’s been nearly 7 years since my brother took his life, and yet, the smells of people bbqing drift through my open window, and my heart grieves again.

    I’ve also found that writing helps it, but usually I keep those writings to myself. In a little notebook where I can go back and relive a memory when I need to. Blueberry muffins and jigsaw puzzles, the click of recognition when I first saw where I got my frizzy curly hair from…
    Did you know I still can’t watch Supernatural? Because I watched it with him, and that is still a bruise that just can’t heal.

    Sending you love and light and an extra hand for when those waves knock you down. ❤

    1. It worked!
      And wouldn’t that be so frustrating if not, because you obviously worked hard on the comment. That’s my pet peeve – when they disappear.
      It’s been over ten years since my other grandmother passed away, and sometimes that pain is so new. It’s the waves. They come and they recede and they come. And each one is fresh and new.
      Sad about Supernatural. I actually used to watch that show too but it’s easily been 7-8 years.
      Sending you light and love too!

  5. I love this analogy so much. It’s beautiful how you’ve weaved together our experience with grief and all of these other connections in your relationships and these photos. There are so many ways that we learn and can see how dealing with grief can be. Someone pointed out to me that our menstrual cycle is like a grieving from our bodies because the blood that nutrition that build up in our uterus wasn’t able to give that life to a baby so it releases it or dies through our “time of the month.” Then I started thinking about all of the emotional ups and downs people tend to have at this time or coming up to it and it makes a lot of sense. That is exactly how dealing with grief can be for sure. 🙂

    1. Wow – it totally seems that way!! Tides of the moon, tides of the menstrual cycle, tides of grief.
      Somehow it all seems connected.

  6. Oh, Tamara, this is one of my favorite posts of yours. It is so beautiful and wise and true. The title in itself gave me chills, “let one wave take you down.” You should perhaps rethink your low marks regarding grief, because to me, it seems you have some truly helpful advice to share.

    How sad it is that you won’t have that lunch with your grandmother, but how lovely it is that you can make it for your family, in her honor.

    Talking about the past with my young children helps. I create memories about my mom for my kids, even though they never met her. They know basic stuff like her name and what she looks like, but they also know her favorite flower and season, they know how full of love and laughter she was, what her favorite expresssions were. We keep our loved ones alive with our memories. For me, this helps my grief. To share my love.

    1. Thank you about rethinking the low marks! I think that’s why I was seeking out advice. I was tending to swallow grief whole, just to push away the darkness and make the world seem light again. I don’t want to do that anymore! I suppose I don’t do it as badly.
      Talking to my kids helps so much. You’re so right!

  7. I love this so much!! I don’t think I’ve ever grieved so much in my life because nothing really that terrifying has happened. I don’t even wanna think about it when it does happen. I don’t/won’t know what to say or do. Sometimes I do come off as insensitive, at least from what my husband told me (yes he did say I can be insensitive! hehe). I guess that knowing myself too well, I’m quite good with hiding my true emotions when I want to. I so love what you said about how we sometimes think we have it figured out by 15 and so on because in truth, we never really know until we’re there…

    1. That’s really awesome. I have a friend like that, actually. She’s my age and nothing tragic has happened. I hope it stays that way for a LONG time.

  8. So beautiful. I don’t think grieving ever really goes away – it just changes and evolves into something that can be dealt with on a daily basis. My grandma died 9 years ago, and I still grieve her a little bit every day. She called me “sugar” and I still miss that. “Lunch lives on” is a very profound statement.

    1. Exactly. I used to call it a winding road, before calling it waves. Waves never stop but they certainly change in power and consistency!
      My other grandmother passed away over ten years and sometimes it’s so new and raw.

  9. Grief does come in waves –

    I just was thinking about my friend Paul who died a couple of years ago, because May was his birthday. I remember people on certain occasions like that.

    Thanks for sharing. My daughter gets out of school Friday lol

    1. This time of year certainly stirs a lot up for me. Graduations and happy occasions, but also losses.
      Friday! Wow. We still have three weeks, but who’s counting?

  10. I don’t think grief ever goes away really. I still find myself struggling with losing my father in law…he was so much a part of my everyday life that sometimes little thoughts or things like my son bringing a pocket watch that once belonged to him to his sister’s confirmation and when I saw that he had it there, I kind of teared up. My little guy (who isn’t so little) was particularly close to him and likes to keep the things that he has to remember him by close. And he tends to bring them with him to special occasions like that. I think it’s healthy to grieve like that, in waves, with memories. It shows how much that person meant to you, and how much they still are a part of your life. Sending hugs!

    1. I feel like really is the waves. They can come and go, fresh and new, forever. And it wasn’t that long ago for you! I find it gets more of a struggle the older I get. I wonder why..
      Sending love to you!

  11. Beautiful post. I don’t know if I am good at grieving, but I have had a lot of loss. I think you compartmentalize grief, Maybe bring it out a little and enjoy the happy moments and memories like lunch in a kitchen with someone you love. Dwelling in the land of loss for too long means the worry, the sadness will overtake and drown you. I can’t live like that. I had a friend who just delivered her 30 week old son who had died yesterday. I think there are some waves that sink us for a while and it takes a while for us to get back into life, and any only time is the great healer.

    1. I think you said it really well. Bring it out and acknowledge however often or for as long as you need, but also don’t let it drown you. We just can’t.
      As for your poor dear friend. There are definitely some waves that are too much, too intense, and no amount of what I’ve learned can help in the short run.
      Much love to her.

  12. High Marks for all of your blogs like this one that put smiles on our faces, and even higher marks for you, Tamara! We had a Lazy Susanm It was a nice ceramic one on our coffee table, and had four open dishes two white, two yellow, and a lid covered white dish in the center. We used it for M & M’s Hershey’s Kisses, assorted bite size chocolates and Mary Janes. We also used it for sliced carrots and celery and broccoli and cauliflower florets and the dip was in the dish with the lid. I liked spinning it around too. They were very common table centerpiece back in the day. You give us words filled with unending optimism here, Tamara. Life challenges us on a daily basis to get back up again after the latest wave knocks us down. Each one challenges us to make us stronger. Every day I try to do that, and try to help my family to do that too. We should all try to ride the waves and help each up after some of those waves knock us down.

    1. My grandmother would have loved that!! She used her Lazy Susan for candy when it wasn’t lunchtime. Hershey kisses and licorice bites and whatever else! Chocolate covered raisins, I believe.
      I would love one in my house. We had one at my childhood house too!

  13. Oh, my gosh this is so beautiful, Tamara. The photos are the perfect accompaniment. Grieving just goes on and on like the waves. There is no wrong way to grieve and no time limit. It’s not comfortable. It hurts like hell. You’ve eloquently described such a hard emotion for us to define. Thank you for this lovely post!

    1. Very uncomfortable and very painful – so true. It’s the hardest part of the human experience, at least for me.
      Thank you for this lovely comment!

  14. Beautiful, Tamara. My grandmother passed when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was unable to travel home (Texas) to the funeral. After my daughter was born we moved to Texas. We went San Antonio to my grandparents’ house and IT hit me. My grandma wasn’t there, she wasn’t going to bring us food or show us pictures. I miss her dearly and now my grandpa too.
    Sending you love!
    XOXO

    1. Oh that’s so tough. I always think about how much my grandmother would have loved Scarlet. Scarlet is even named for her! Luckily both kids met my other grandmother but I don’t know that Des will ever remember her. Well sadly I know he won’t. He had just turned two when she passed.

  15. Grief is a balancing act, as you said. You stand and brace yourself against the waves, but sometimes an unexpected wave comes and you are knocked off your feet. There will always be more waves, but you can always get back up.

    In July, it will be 19 years since my grandmother passed away. Most of my memories bring me smiles instead of grief, but it still saddens me that she never met my kids. She would’ve loved them.

    1. Such a balancing act! I didn’t realize how much.
      19 years is a lot. It’s been about 13 years since my grandmother. I can’t believe that. And I’m sad she never met my kids either. They would have been rainbow sprinkle buddies.

  16. I don’t know if anyone is really good at greiving. It seems as if some people are good at hiding their feelings or ignoring them. I think it’s just hard for almost everyone. Even with time there is still a lot of grief that you have for special loved ones.

    1. True. I think I’ve been good at hiding and blocking, but it’s gotten different over the years. I certainly feel a lot more these days.

  17. Grief is a funny thing. Just when you think you have it managed, it comes back when you least expect it. I find this in divorce too, which is much like the grieving process.

    1. I would think so. You are still grieving something alive. Love and marriage are.. alive, even if they have to end on the sooner side.
      Great perspective!

  18. I often feel like I don’t feel grief they way you are “supposed” to feel grief. At least not the way it happens in a movie. When my uncle passed away a few years ago I didn’t cry initially and I wondered if something was wrong with me. With my aunt, it was similar. Now I find the that the grief over my aunt’s death hitting me unexpectedly, mostly with Eve. Eve has taken to a stuffed animal my aunt and uncle gave me almost 20 years ago, and for some reason it was the only stuffed animal I held onto. Now it’s one of Eve’s favorites. I find myself wanting to tell mu ant this and I can’t, and I’m reminded that she’s no longer here. Or I’ll just remember something about her out of the blue and it makes me cry.

    You do have an amazing way of putting feelings into the most beautiful, eloquent words.

    1. I always feel that way too. Like I feel numb sometimes and then years later, the grief can overtake me. I’m trying to find a better balance than that, but it’s hard!

      And thank you so much.

  19. Grief is one of those things that is so hard to get a grip on. I didn’t realize its power until I found myself in the throes. It never really gets any easier. It’s really about how we manage it, it ebbs and flows and your description of it all is perfection.

    1. Same here! I didn’t realize it until much later in life. And the ebbs and flows are confusing, but now they make total sense to me. It’s about balance!

  20. I’ve never had to grieve in a truly heavy way—most of the people who have passed away weren’t that close to me, and I dread the day when someone I truly, truly love will leave me. I think grief does come in waves. We move on, but there’s a bittersweet pull and regret at feeling like you’ve already forgotten.

    1. For most of my life, despite my father passing away early, I didn’t really know the feeling as an adult. It wasn’t until my paternal grandmother passed away. It was like a knife through the heart. A pit of darkness. It was terrifying but it’s when I first learned to balance it. She passed away during my senior finals in college, if you can believe that.. So I had to honor the four years of college I had worked on, but.. man, that was hard.

  21. This was a beautifully written post on grief Tamara. I still don’t know if any of us know how to deal with grief. Like you said, we pull it out for a time, acknowledge it, and put it back in for a time. Your words were just simply beautiful.

    1. I always thought that other people knew and I didn’t! However every situation is so different and we change throughout life.
      Thanks so much about my post.

  22. I like how you compared your grief to the waves. I love that you have captured so many memories on film. I wish I had more photos of my grandparents and the time we spent together. I was only eight when my last grandparent passed away and it gets harder to hold on to the memories. I hope you find comfort in your memories – they are precious!

    1. Eight! Oh, how sad. Cassidy never got to meet one of his grandparents, and the rest passed away so long ago.
      The memories are SO precious.

  23. Grief is a tough one, that’s for sure.

    Natalie loves when I have lunch with her. It’s always amusing to hear the gossip of elementary school from kids.

    1. You were the one to inspire it! I asked the school and they said I could do it, but it took until June. I hope to do it earlier next year. And they only have 20 minutes to eat! Sheesh.

  24. I’ve always loved the oceans tides comparison when talking about grief – it’s just so accurate. For me – grief is always different – always. And I think that’s because grief does in fact erode a part of us, slowly over time, depending on the currents and the force of the waves. There’s no preparing for it, we just become more familiar – and I guess comfortable with it. Although comfortable doesn’t seem like the appropriate word to me:(.

    1. Different for me too. That’s why I worry I can’t get a handle on it. There are so many strange factors at hand. Comfortable is definitely hard word for it, but I suppose balance is a better one? I don’t even know!

  25. Grief is something I find very hard to talk about, but you write about it so beautifully. Grief is indeed an ocean, but it doesn’t have to sweep you away.

  26. I think we all grieve in our own way, but it never really stops does it? It just changes.

    1. Exactly! For me it really is like waves in an ocean – sometimes loud, sometimes quiet and far away, but always cycling through.

  27. I guess I do grief well . . . I’m sad that someone has passed, but I don’t get caught up in grief. I carry memories with me and share them with others. You can have that lunch again – just make it yourself and carry on those memories with your own family.

  28. Ken’s grandmother died last week. While we weren’t super close, she was an amazing woman who raised 8 kids. Losing her brings up a lot of associated loses and I’ve been feeling very weepy this week. I don’t know that I’ll ever understand grief, or even that we’re meant to, but it helps to know that others are similarly affected.

    1. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear! She sounds amazing.
      It helps me to read these comments for sure. I always feel stunted emotionally when it comes to grief, but it’s no easy road for anyone.

  29. I’ve had this post open for days and have been meaning to comment. Grief is tough and it’s been an interesting journey, especially since as with you, it’s been a a fixture in my life since I was little. But I love how you can continue to the lunches your Grandmother used to make – I love the idea of continuing those traditions into the future and passing them along. Such a beautiful post and photos.

    1. That’s so sweet that you came back to comment. Sometimes it’s just hard for me personally!
      Grief has always been a fixture but I was too young to understand it then so I get these strange remnants of it now. And always.
      And then when I experience new grief, it’s so different as an adult!

  30. This is so beautifully phrased Tamara. And I love the idea that you can pass along a tradition as simple as cold cuts and a lazy susan to your kids. I’m not sure all grief can be ‘gotten rid of’. There are some people that are just too special and will always be with us.

  31. Grief is one of those things that hot each of us differently. For me losing my grandmother was like losing my best friend leaving behind an emptiness that can never be truly filled.

    1. That’s what it was like for me when my paternal grandmother passed away over ten years ago. It has gotten easier to go on without her, but of course I think of her often.

  32. Beautiful Tamara…

    I was just talking with some friends about grief having the ability to embrace both the joy and pain at once. They come together so often, don’t they? Those waves can be overwhelming.. your words describe it all so exquisitely. Allow yourself to feel through the pain and acknowledge the memory, the thoughts, the emotion can be so powerful…and then sort it through the joy… sometimes I believe God reveals, provides, and balances it all out that way so perfectly.

  33. This Post is truly inspirational … The thing about grief is that I don’t think we are ever truly healed. There is always something that comes up to trigger the exact emotion at that time. You are Bold for putting this post out there Tamara

  34. I like the wave analogy – that’s how it seems for me. you can be happily stroking along through life and wham – a big wave pulls you under when you least were expecting it. you come up for air after being tumbled, and maybe even based against some rocks – you gasp and sputter: but, you breathe. deep gulping breaths. and maybe you get hit once more – maybe you don’t. maybe you look to the horizon and see the sun sure enough has risen once more. I was by one of those waves recently when spending some time with one of my aunts. my uncle passed a few years ago and as she sat alone in my mother’s garden, it just stroke me again: he is gone. square in the chest and me left sputtering. Why didn’t I feel it years ago when he first died? When confronted with her tearful face at his funeral? I don’t know. I guess it takes some time to measure and count the weight of one life upon your own. He was the single most positive influence of what a husband and father should be. And I realized as I remembered many things about him: that I basically married him. In a way, I kept him with me forever.

    1. Umm.. best comment! I definitely feel that way about how it takes some time to measure and count the weight of one’s life upon your own. Sometimes it’s instant, and sometimes so not. So many factors. So confusing to me.
      This is gorgeous.

  35. Everyone grieves so differently. Sometimes I feel like I never do for those that I’ve lost. It’s such a process. I find it hard to really comprehend!

  36. So beautiful and true. When we lost my youngest sister, I fell to the floor with that first wave.The waves still come , but the memories of the times we had keeps me going.

    1. I definitely have fallen to the floor on more than one occasion. Then I picked myself up because life goes on, but would definitely have waves. It’s so powerful!

    1. Thanks, Carly! I lost my maternal grandmother over ten years ago and it still feels new sometimes. It’s coming up on a year for my other grandmother and it’s on my mind.

  37. I’m still grieving over the death of my dad even though I’ve lost him over 2 years ago. It seems like the pain will never go away. I truly now what you’re going through since I’ve been there and still am there.

    1. Two years is not so long in the world of grieving. And I imagine it does get better but it’s always still there. It has been for me!

  38. I love this post and grief (as you know) is often on my mind. Focusing on the ocean and its waves is an apt way to describe your grief. Beautiful.

  39. I love these beautiful pictures! I have been knocked down by waves a LOT, so I hear you! And yes, we always get back up again, sometimes more slowly than others. I am at the beach today, and the water is crystal clear and calm, much like my soul right now. I am fortunate. I am in a really great place. I wish this summer could last forever.

    1. I hope you enjoyed the beach! We’ll be there soon enough, and I’ll be thinking about grief, but also about fresh and clean starts. Thank you.

  40. I am the grim reaper it feels like sometimes. We have lost over 50 people we loved in the last 10 years. I think my coping mechanism is that I just pray. it is really all I can do. The hardest loss was my grandma who died suddenly and then on the day of her funeral my brother died. Too much, lots of tears, hugs, and just plain grief that totally comes in waves. Each person grieves in their own matter.

    1. 50 people! Oh, I’m so, so sorry. You must have a lot of love in your life to have lost so many dear ones.
      So sad about your grandmother and brother..

  41. Oh grief is so so tough. It does come in waves, sometimes not for long stretches of time, then there it is. I love how you’re processing this grief. I’ve learned to sit in it, no matter the length of time I need or the stretch of time in between. My grief changes over time, becoming less and less painful and more and more loving and loved. It’s a tricky thing.

    P.S. I love that picture of Scarlet and your grandmother! They have such similar features, it just made the story/processing that much more beautiful 🙂

  42. I’ve only ever had to sit with the grief for one beloved (my grandmother), and I did it by burying it deep inside. Lately, I’ve been thinking about her a lot, and allowing myself to feel the pain. I think having children opened up the cracks in my heart, and in a good way.

    1. Totally! I remember my first blog post ever, and I said that having Scarlet made me feel wide open. In a good way. Less stony.

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