A strange jewel, a quiet creature: this company we keep could be either, so let’s say they’re the same thing.
It holds a gemstone’s depths and facets, always a new twist of whatever light shines through. It is precious. It is best held close to the heart; it is a gift for you alone.
It is also a small shadow, a creature that came in the window you didn’t open. Now, it is Here – politely, unavoidably, whether you want it or not; it is here to stay. It will not abandon you.
It’s the jewel no one fights over, the companion no one wants. No one ever claims it. Disease, addiction, depression, obsession – any of these are preferable to talk about with others. Pick your poison, they say – but don’t pick Grief.
That’s easy to say. No one ever picks grief, it picks you. It’s like the Emily Dickinson poem:
“Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – ”.
Perhaps that isn’t quite true. It isn’t a process of picking and choosing, after all. Grief can enter through any experience. Grief is part of the process of mapping the scope of our love for someone or something. Grief is about love.
That is, often we would not understand that we loved something if we didn’t discover it through grief. It must have been love, to spark grief. If the love was not suspected or expressed, this is the part where regret may come in – but it is possible to grieve without regret, just as it is possible to love without regret.
It isn’t always a dramatic process. It may take a while to realize that what you experience is, in fact, grief. This is particularly true if what you grieve isn’t a typical focus of grief; grief is not just for that which is dead or unreachable. You can grief anything you love, at any point of the process of loving. You can grief a friendship, a way of life, the world, your own mortality. You can grieve for the past, the present, and the future. Any of these are valid.
It may take even longer to find a way of expressing that grief in a way that adequately fits the experience – and it is an important enough thing, both in itself and on behalf of whatever sparked it, that it must be truthfully expressed.
So the question becomes: how do we say it? It seems it needs practice. It is not a frequent, or comfortable, topic of conversation. It is a difficult thing to share with others, and it is a difficult thing for others to hear. Thus the words themselves are rare – “I’m grieving.”
It’s a simple thing, an acknowledgement of a state; it’s a boundary. The world is either grieving or not-grieving. To color in the lines of this boundary, more words are needed.
“I live with grief;” “Grief came to stay with me.” Grief shares my days, I hold grief, grief colors my sight. The feeling of love has become mixed with pain. The feeling of love has become the same as pain. Give me time, because it feels as if I need forever. Give me tomorrow, because today is a hard thing to bear.
You may be wondering: “How do I live with grief?”
Grief doesn’t go away. Once it is there, it’s there, though it may lie buried deep.
What do we do with that which we can’t escape?
Accept it, fight it, argue with it. Live life despite it, or alongside it; seek understanding. Any of these are possible, all are reasonable, though some are futile. Grief is as varied and individual as love in its experience and expression. Don’t bother looking for a “correct” response.
But if you can – remember this: grief is not a selfish guest. It can coexist with almost any other emotion or experience. Let it stay; do not rush or deny it; treat it with respect. Allow it to do as it needs, and it will eventually lay itself down to rest, not gone but at peace.
Today, my friend, may you be at peace.