There’s no Doppler radar for this. You almost never see it coming. Sometimes it gives you a hint at its arrival—losing your keys, forgetting appointments, a sudden wish that everything would stop or everyone would shut up. But mostly, grief slams into you full force, leaving your insides shattered. Grief doesn’t pick your best day or even your worst day. It picks any day it damn well wants. It picks the very day and time it needs to. Grief doesn’t run on your, or anyone else’s schedule. It runs according to its own inner maniacal, goddam, genius wisdom. And it leaves you in pieces, taking one simple breath at a time wondering how you are going to get through the next hour.
Meanwhile, what is so absolutely crazy, is that everything else in the world looks normal. Completely and utterly normal. You have been hit by hurricane force winds and a massive storm surge. And no one else sees it. You are standing in the room, soaking wet and blown around and everyone else is just talking like nothing happened. It’s insane. You stare at them and try to make out their words and sentences. You try to nod and smile so no one notices your soaking clothes and your windblown hair. And for that moment you hate everyone around you for acting like it’s all okay. Acting like there isn’t this giant loss, this gaping hole where your heart usually is. And forget language. Words are entirely too small to describe your current condition. It feels pointless to try.
When it hits, like it did for me today, you have to work so hard to remember that there is something beyond the storm. This is why grief is so very hard at the beginning of any loss or any journey of healing. It is why we stay away from it. In the beginning all you know is the storm. You haven’t come through it once, or even twenty times to know what’s on the other side. And knowing it never, ever makes the storm less powerful. Knowing what’s on the other side doesn’t make the grief feel better, or less painful. It just helps you hold on long enough for the storm to pass. It keeps you from running from it. It helps you allow the grief to do its good work.
The good work never feels good. There’s no magic on the other side of a storm. But there is more. More of something. What’s been splintered during the storm has opened up space. More space inside you where there was tightness or pain. More ground beneath your feet. It won’t protect you from the next wave of grief, but it does allow you to hold the love and grief of others in a bigger way—and eventually it allows you to hold your own. And that is good.
© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2014