Monday, March 8, 2010

COMMENTARY: Grief and Sadness

Sad things happen on my birthday. 15 years ago, my mother died. 10 years ago, my first baby died. Those are the two major events, but not the only ones. I don’t tell you this to make you feel sorry for me. I do not want nor need your sympathy.

I suppose I just need an outlet for the grief that remains behind. And so, every year I take a few minutes on that day to reflect on that grief and sadness. A few minutes spent one day a year alone with the memories of what used to be and what might have been. I don’t know if this is a healthy way of handling it or not, but so far relegating my grief to one specific day has worked for me. And since God (with his inimitable sense of humor) has granted most of these grievous events to occur on that day, He makes it easy.

Grief has a funny way of changing a person, making her look at life differently, to appreciate things in ways she may not have before. I may be sad, but I am stronger for the pain. I am more aware of the world around me. I know that I am alive, that I am breathing air. There is nothing worse than being numb, deadened by the inability to accept the terrible things that life throws at us. Not knowing which way is up or down. The grief process is simple: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Each of us works our way through these stages in different ways. It’s been many years, and I have long been in the “Acceptance” phase, but that does not mean that I don’t still feel the pain. Because I do.

One of the worst things that happens when someone you love dies, is not being able to say goodbye. People talk about whether it’s better to know they’re going to die so you can have the chance to say goodbye, or if it’s better to not know ahead of time so you don’t have to dread it happening. Personally, when the Big Guy in Charge decides we don’t get a chance to say goodbye, I think it’s just... unnecessarily cruel. How good it would be if only we were able to say those final words, to say “I will love you always”, or “I’m so very, very sorry”, or whatever else needs to be said in order to truly have closure, instead of the regret of not being able to say a word.

Sometimes in the dark moments of grief, when all our hope is gone, we need to try to find something to hold on to. Saying goodbye is painful at best. Knowing it will be the last goodbye is heart-rending. Knowing you don’t get to say goodbye is...tragic. Having a goodbye to hold on to is worth the world.

But sometimes He decides for us. It is out of our control. Of course, if God were as omnipotent as religious folks will tell you, couldn't He just break the rules of the universe to allow that one last goodbye?

Death is cruel. The finality of it is almost incomprehensible. I wish it was easy to let go of the sorrow and pain. But it simply isn’t. And yet somehow we must take a deep breath and move forward with our lives. We hope the crutch of grief will get smaller and smaller each day, and it does to an extent. It just takes a long, long time. And it never truly goes away. So I give myself this day to cry, for all of us who have lost someone--mothers, fathers, children, a soulmate or best friend. Their losses are unquantifiable. And so I will spend my few minutes alone today, thinking of what I have lost.

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