"The other thing I know now is that we survive grief merely and surely by outlasting it – the ongoing fact of the narrative eclipses the heartbreak within..."Gail Caldwell, New Life, No Instructions
Tim Lawrence's recent post has gone viral. Lawrence wrote about how everything doesn't happen for a reason, something most of us know all too well.
We know that sometimes life sucker punches us. But we also know that, even though we think our husband's affair was the worst thing that could happen to us, we can learn from pain. Even if the something we learn is the human spirit's ability to survive things we didn't think were survivable. And that our ability to refrain from justifiable homicide is awe inspiring.
Tim Lawrence makes the point that, when we're brought to our knees by heartbreak of any kind, the only sane response is grief. It's a point I frequently make too, such as here. And here.
It's not a popular opinion to hold. We don't like grief. Grief feels passive and there's little our culture hates more than passivity. We like a can-do attitude. We like stories of triumph over adversity. We want heroes. And we want those heroes to be fierce and formidable.
Grief? That's for old women who wear black. For those who've given up.
Grief is a recognition of our pain, an acknowledgement of our loss. In a culture that offers myriad ways to insulate ourselves from this pain – from drugs to sex to food to cat videos on YouTube – just sitting with it is heroic. And sitting with another in her pain, without trying to fix or reduce it or somehow control it – is downright revolutionary.
We can't fast-track grief. There's no going over it or under it or around it. Those who try will find grief emerges in strange places, baffling us with tears when we think we're happy. Or numbing us from feeling anything at all.
Grief is a shape-shifter and only when we give in to it do we begin to recognize the many forms it takes. Sometimes tears, sometimes laughter, sometimes a belief that nothing matters, other times a conviction that everything does. And always a deep crack in our hearts.
But to give in to it is also where healing takes root. Tiny seeds of compassion and wisdom are sown in the fertile soil of our pain and nourished with our tears. The day will come – I promise – when the dark cloud of grief becomes the sunlight toward which our healing bends. If we have shown ourselves compassion for our grief, we become better able to extend that compassion to others. If we have been gentle with ourselves in our grief, we become better able to be gentle with others. If we have been merciful with ourselves, we are better able to show mercy to others. Grief has softened us even as it as strengthened.
We haven't outwitted grief, or outsmarted it. But we have endured it. And our life goes on.
What this means for you is that this is going to be a long road. But here you will find those who understand your grief and feel no need to transform it. It's enough to be with you in your grief, and for you to join us in ours.