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.
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.
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.
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.
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.