This past week, I had the opportunity to speak at a local event celebrating and remembering those who have passed away in the last year — primarily those who had been supported by one of the local hospice organizations. It was a beautiful, touching event, one that impacted me more than I expected.
The great thing about being in a room of grieving people is the shared understanding. No, we don’t completely understand what motivates each one of us, as we each have our own experiences that shape us. The love and acceptance in that room? Amazing!
That evening I spoke about grief, specifically about some of what I have learned in the last years. Here is a bit of what I talked about:
- Grief is exhausting, period. It is exhausting to carry the weight of that loss around all the time.
- Grief does not get better, it gets different. You get to a point where you make a very uneasy peace with it.
- It can still sneak up and smack you when you least expect it, driving you to your knees. For example, later in the week, I went to a school concert. I was keeping an eye on all the moving parts, when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall young man in a work jacket, wool cap, lots of curly blond hair sticking out under the cap, big work boots clomping on the gym floor. For a moment, I thought it was Sam. My heart raced with the completely unrealistic jump of joy that it was Sam. And then the reality hit, it was just a young man who looked a lot like him — and in that crowded room, in my official role, I had to suck in my breath, hold back the tears, clench my fists until the nails bit into the palms, and find my center again.
- The people we have lost had passions. I think we owe it to them to keep their passions alive. They liked to fish? Teach someone to fish. They liked to bake cookies? Share that favorite recipe. Sam loved unconditionally? We need to keep that love alive.
- Joy will return. It takes a while, you feel guilty at first, but it does happen. You do reach a point where you smile talking about them more than you cry.
- Be gentle with yourself. That is true whether or not you are grieving. We all are doing the best we can on any given day. Be gentle with yourself and others, ask for help when you need it, offer help when you can.
- Love, love, love. Love often, fiercely, unconditionally. Take all that love rumbling around inside of you for the person who is gone, and shine it back on the world. Be that relentless love in the world.