Let’s talk about grief. More specifically, let’s talk about death. I know you don’t want to talk about it and frankly, neither do I but it’s something that happens to every single being and yet, we spend so little time discussing it. It occurred to me a couple of weeks ago that life is just one cycle of loss and love. I spent some time being really fucking sad about that. Like how can we keep putting ourselves through this? How do we carry on knowing that there will be more pain and more goodbyes? I sat with the sadness and then reminded myself that it’s so necessary for if we don’t experience this side of life then how will we ever fully appreciate all of the beauty and goodness? The beautiful rainbows when we’ve asked for a sign from our loved ones passed, smiles exchanged with someone who knows your soul, the smell of freshly cut sage from the garden, a child’s giggle. This is what gets us through our grief. The knowing that this beauty exists, the knowing that the grief comes from a place of such deep love.
We’ve come face to face with grief in our home in recent weeks. During a time when we are supposed to be giving thanks and finding gratitude, we were sopping messes. I know I don’t have to tell you that this pandemic has taken so much and we are collectively grieving. Grieving our lives as we knew them “before”, grieving loved ones, grieving loss of careers or time alone, grieving the busyness that kept us blissfully unaware of the unhealed parts of ourselves.
I find myself yearning to talk about grief and not quite sure how to do that. I’m lucky enough to have some special people around me that I can do that with but there are plenty of awkward moments too. For example, when I logged in last week to teach a virtual yoga class and the first person who joined in asked how my Thanksgiving was. Poor thing said it with such enthusiasm, obviously expecting me to talk about pumpkin pie and instead I blurted out that my father in law had died the day before so we hadn’t exactly been feeling celebratory. My instant reaction after telling her was regret. I should’ve just stayed quiet and told her my holiday was fine. And then I thought...why do I wish I had lied? My go-to emotion is often guilt so there’s that (I’m working on it) but besides that, I realized that it’s also taboo in our society to speak of things that aren’t positive. And I’m here to say fuck that. We NEED to talk about these things. We need to heal together. We are all so deeply and beautifully wounded. Why can’t we share that together instead of pretending that everything is pumpkin pie?
I find myself naturally drawn to people who are trying to heal. People with a story, those who acknowledge their shadow side or at least are aware of it’s existence. I don’t have the energy for surface or pretend and if this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that life is too damn short to waste it pretending. It’s also taught me that we desperately need one another.
Speaking of needing each other, I’d like to touch upon what to do when someone you know is grieving. Now I know there isn’t a manual out there for this and other people’s traumas can often bring out our own but please, please reach out to your friends or family when they are hurting. If you think of them, let them know. If you’re worried about them, pick up the phone. Send a card. Cook them a meal. Whatever is in your capacity in the moment, go for it. We too often assume that the other person needs space or maybe that they’re surrounded by enough but please don’t assume. There are so many ways to communicate these days- text, call, reach out on social media, send some snail mail, carrier pigeon, etc. And once you reach out to them, that’s when you give them the space to respond.
I remember when my father passed away, I was so overwhelmed with making decisions on final arrangements and getting his many, messy affairs in order that the last thing I could handle was calling people back. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the sentiment of them calling but it just felt like another responsibility and I was so bogged down already. When my cousin called and left me a message, I remember her saying “please don’t feel like you need to call me back but I wanted you to know that I’m thinking of you.” Twelve years later and I still remember the relief that I felt when I heard those words. And guess what? She was the first person I called back.
Death and grief are sticky and they’re complicated and it’s easier to focus on sunshine and rainbows sometimes and I get that but it’s just so important that we talk about these things. We’ve so appreciated every single gesture, no matter how big or small that has been made over the past couple of weeks. Knowing there are people out there who support you means everything and in a time when we are lonely and grief stricken, let’s remember to keep checking in with each other.