I was making excellent use of this quarantine time.
Really! I was playing guitar. I caught up with old friends. I offered a sale on Tarot readings and filled my calendar quickly. My kitchen cabinets got a good cleaning, my drawers were organized, and I finally recovered a chair, something I’d put off for two years. I was even writing two full hours a day. I wasn’t exactly enjoying social distancing, but I was certainly getting good at it.
But then, death.
Of two good friends. Within ten days.
Why, I wondered? Had the isolation made the depression meaner? Because of the inability to see a doctor due to quarantine, had a symptom been ignored? I combed their FB pages looking for clues as to why these losses had happened. I knew that questioning is part of the cycle of grief. I knew that I would never get answers, but it didn’t stop me from asking. In the midst of social distancing, I spent many hours alone, deep in my grief.
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And the grief went deep.
I couldn’t work. I forgot Tarot appointments. I didn’t pick up the guitar. I barely wrote or read. I struggled to sleep at night, but napped in 3-4 hour stretches during the day. My sluggish, waking hours went to listening to music. I curated a playlist of all the songs that make me bawl and listened to it over and over again. Some of the songs, while they may have made me cry in the past, didn’t do it for me this time. Others did the job, but in surprising ways as in, a lyric I never listened to much suddenly clung to my heart like saran wrap.
If you’d like to check out my sob-list, here it is!
These little moment inform us, they help us find the roots of the grief and pull it out before it carves a permanent place in us.
I don’t mean for any of this to minimize another’s grief. There are levels, there is context. Some people don’t survive grief. It can take over, it can drown. I’m speaking, though, from my own experience and if you find it helpful for you, it is yours for the taking.
I’ve lost quite a few people in my life. I always forget one strange secret of grief.
Grief has a marvelous way of clearing the way for joy.
I spent two days crying. There will be more tears, when I’m finally able to be around our mutual friends and I feel their absence, or when I see something that would make them laugh. I won’t ever get over losing them, or any of the people I’ve lost. There’s a before and an after. I’m getting used to this new “after.”
But after a loss, I find that I laugh louder. I listen longer. I’m more interested in everything I hear and don’t find myself needing to rush off to the next thing. I sit with that hard, but warm reminder that everything I touch is temporary. I too, am only here for a brief time.
It’s a strange joy that grief brings along with it: joy in knowing the person that we lost, the memory of our last encounter with them, or even relief in complicated situations, perhaps in the knowledge that they are no longer suffering or, if they held a painful place in our lives, that the situation has concluded.
Margot Adler used to say that when we lose someone, we don’t ever get over it. Our heart simply grows bigger around it.
Each time I’ve lost someone, I find that I can laugh harder when I’m on the other side of it. I appreciate more. I love deeper and I let go of anger faster. I wish it didn’t take the pain of grief to get me to these places, but hey—if wishes were horses, right?
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Grief acts like a creature of the deep sea. Perhaps uncomfortable to look at, maybe one that you’d rather not come across and would prefer to avoid. But just as these creatures are able to descend to the deepest places on our planet, grief can get us to those deeper places in ourselves.
Grief’s spouse is joy. It wants nothing more than to carve deeper places within us and to call its Beloved down to join them.
I try not to fight grief, but invite it to settle deeper, to carve more room, and make more beautiful chambers to invite joy to reside. Because after grief has done its job, it moves on. But joy has a way of sticking around for a long time.