Why Bother Sharing Grief?

Why Bother Sharing Grief?

Sharing good times is easy. Sharing hard times is not. Yet, I do not think we are meant to carry heavy loads of woe alone. Sorrow, though  personal, is also  universal. None of us make it through this life without bumping up against sadness and loss. We do not get to forgo the inevitable parts of living; such as experiencing grief when loss happens.

Sharing the Load

Sadness makes us feel vulnerable, uncovered, undone and powerless. Recovering exhausts us. Mending from bereavement can be a little bit like rolling a boulder up a hill. It is hard work. Then, just when we think we might be okay, the rock slips out from underneath our hands and rolls back down the slope. And we start again. Yet, since none of us are exempt from grief, we do not need to roll our boulder alone. From my own experiences with pain, I have noticed that those who have lost, as I have, can help me the most, if I let them. They are like a guide who has already tread down the path of adversity, and lived to tell about it. Their season of sadness changed their lives, but their lives did not end because of their sadness. These are the best ones to call upon for a little help. And recently, I was privileged to have someone call me. 

A friend, emotionally depleted and physically spent after a traumatic loss, said to me, “Can you help me to remember how to breathe?” 

We  agreed that yoga could be helpful and set a date to practice some breathing. Unrolling our mats onto my deck one morning, I led my friend through some slow and simple asanas. I reminded her that no matter where we put our bodies in space, our priority was to breathe. She let out an audible sigh. 

We breathed in deep draughts of air while seated in an easy twist. We inhaled the warm summer breeze while lying on our backs with our legs resting against the wall. We permitted our bellies to fill with air while resting in supported bridge pose. In essence, we moved, but more importantly, we breathed.

When we finished, the smile on her face confirmed for me that together, we had moved her boulder a little farther up the slope toward betterment. 

Why bother sharing grief? It is worth it to trust another with the personal load of sorrow. After all, it is universal. 

Why Bother With Grief?

 

Why Bother With Grief?

June 27th will mark the 32nd anniversary of Elliott Emery Luikens’ death. He was our third born son, a stillbirth. He was full-term, nine pounds, twenty-two inches long and perfect. The only thing he lacked was the breath of life. A knot formed in his umbilical cord and tightened, cutting off his source of oxygen the day before I went into labor. Sadness surrounded his delivery and engulfed me for days and months afterward. 

Grief

At first, I only wanted grief to go away. I avoided paying any attention to it and pretended it wasn’t there. That did not work. I guess grief is used to being ignored and it did not take my rejection personally. Instead, it continued to hang out with me, always nearby and within reach. I didn’t want to touch it. It took up so much space and it scared me. Occasionally, when I did acknowledge its presence, it felt weighty, heavy and constricting. I didn’t want to claim it as mine. I was afraid its heaviness would make me sink and I’d suffocate underneath the length and breadth of it. I was convinced it was a powerful force, something that I had to resist and fight against. Like a bad habit, it had to be conquered or tamed. It might consume me otherwise. Because of its persistent company though, I became intimately acquainted with it. Then I realized how wrong I’d been about grief.  

It is better to pay attention to grief. Ignoring it does not make it go away. It is a natural companion that comes along with loss. Yes, heartache is weighty. The weightiness, though, has its purpose. It slows us down, and forces us to rest more. Loss requires release. Obligations and feats we normally shoulder have to be set down, and laid aside. We cannot function “normally” when we cross paths with something out of the ordinary, such as the death of a child or anybody’s death for that matter.  Anguish is lighter when carried by itself. Unaccompanied by other worries, it is not quite so heavy. 

Heartbreak is raw, and natural. It is not something that you can restrict or domesticate. At times, though, anger tried demanding my sadness to cease. Though anger tried to force a deadline with grief, I discovered that grief is not threatened by anger. Heartbreak is not one to ever kowtow to any such thing as wrath. Nothing can command sorrow to stop, not even our own indignation against it. 

Grief does not require us to isolate ourselves and be alone with it. I knew I was not the first mother in history to bury a child, but it was my first time to bury one of my children. I sought out other mothers who, like me, lived even though their child didn’t. Grief is very personal and everyone’s path through the terrain is different. There are some similar landmarks that everyone sees along this journey though. Other women validated my guilt and confusion. They understood my incomplete sentences formulated from jumbled thoughts. They understood my sobs to be the language of utter agony. Their hugs were the handholds that kept me going as I navigated my way through the uncharted territory of my grief. 

Grief and I became close. At one point, I almost apologized to it. I’d been harsh when it first showed up in my life. I’d tried to ignore it, hoping it would just go away. I was sorry I’d been like that. Just before it left me, it pointed to something it left behind, a little reminder of our time spent together, something to remind me of our relationship. It left me with some empathy. 

Why bother with grief? It is worth spending time with grief because it leaves us with a bit of empathy.