The Grief Pandemic
The world loves us when we are good, better, best. But this is a blog for when you want to stop feeling guilty that you’re not living your best life now. We’re not always having the juicing spree of our lives. I used to have my own delusion of living my best life now. I’m looking over my 20+ years in the death industry, seeing grieving people everywhere I go, I am a mom and grandmother. Soul toucher gold. Then I was diagnosed with pre cancerous uterine cancer. Life was a complete spin out from that point. After 33 years of marriage, approaching 50, empty nest, unemployed and my mother had died. A grown child fighting a politcal war in Iraq, and my dog of 15 years - well, he got old and died.
That was eight years ago and I’m still here. And now I get it. Life is a chronic condition. The self-help and wellness industry will try to tell you that you can always fix your life. Eat this and you won’t get sick. Lose this weight and you’ll never be lonely. Believe with your whole heart and God will provide. Keep this attitude and the money is yours. But I’m here to look into your gorgeous eyes and say, hey, there are some things you can fix and some things you can’t. And it’s OK that life isn’t always better. We can find beauty and meaning and truth, but there’s no cure to being human. So let’s be friends on that journey. Let’s be human together.
Sometimes we talk about grief and loss. Like it’s a story about the past. Oh, look, that’s over. It’s gone. He’s gone. She’s never coming back. Our dream job will never come around again. Our kid has moved a few states away and we used to have dinner together every Sunday. When our dad died, he seemed to take everything with him. But sometimes we lose more than the past. We lose the future. The people we imagined ourselves being and loving, that little glimmer of who we could have become if everything had not come apart.
Loss is about the past, the present and the future. And today is about how we start to swim around in the deep waters of where that leaves us sometimes drowning. Ask a mother who buried her child. She will have that grief that moves forward. I mean, every birthday, Christmas, driver's license, Senio Prom, graduation day, and that constant wonder - I wonder what he/she would look like now? I wonder who they would have married? How many children would he/she have by now? What life challenges would they have faced and overcome? The list goes on.
Part of my role as a grief revcovery specialist is to call and check on those left behind after the death of a loved one. I hear their stories each day - They all have so much in common, yet they isolate. I hear them say things like, "It's been 6 months and I still get down two coffee cups. I wake up and reach for him/her and I realize again and again, they're not here. My eyes have never cried like this - When does it stop?"
I listen intently as they struggle to even say their name without losing their voice and crying uncontrollably. I hear what they are saying - I also hear what they're not saying. I have listened to so many grievers and stay in awe as to how much they have taught me about living.
I sometimes drive through the cemetery and wonder - I wonder how much grief those who have gone before us have suffered? What did their losses look like and how did they handle life? I wonder if they died alone, or was their family around them? I wonder if they lived the life of their dreams or did their dreams die with them?
I want to start a podcast and talk about the upcoming Grief Pandemic. You may think I'm crazy, but it's right there at the horizon. I am not talking just about Covid and the deaths that occurred, and being left out of the 10 chosen to attend the funeral. I'm talking about all those people who have isolated themselves to the point that their social media page is their only source of human contact. I'm talking about all the marriages who struggle because of lay-offs and the children who will grow up in a broken home. What about those children who have not been able to attend school and child abuse cases increased. Those individuals who have health issues and could not get their medication or see their doctor in person - They are suffering too.
Don't kid yourselves - it's happening. The lockdowns have shown an increase of suicides. Trust me when I say that sometimes, hope becomes a beggar. Hope deferred makes the heart sick and people will end their life to avoid that kind of emotion pain. Addictions are on the rise - those in recovery have relapsed. Relapses are devastating to those who are battling demons.
I see grievers everywhere I go these days. They try so hard to put on that good face to mask their pain. My eyes are trained and highly skilled. If they are brave enough to take off their masks, and share their stories, we get the opporunity to talk about what they know and don't know about a healthy way to grieve.
Grief is the hardest work you'll ever do in your life. It takes a lot of courage to look at a life time of pain and loss. One thing I do know is I have dedicated the rest of my life to help hurting people. Many suffer from PTSD and I am not talking about soldiers here - I am talking about people who, as a child, lost so much more than a person through death or divorce. Try talking to a 35 year old woman who has four kids, and is beaten on a regular basis because she grew up in a similar home and thought this is normal. She lost her ability to trust and feel safe by the time she was six years old. Yes, grief comes in so many ways.
Grief can be the main artery that is blocked and you don't even know it. Just like an artery in your heart, once clogged, it can be life threatening. Recovery is a lot like heart surgery. That's where grief resides, in the heart. The mind is the memory bank of all the hurts your heart has been through. I tell my groups all the time that what I do here is not like a grief support group. If my leg was broken, and the doctor came in and after looking at the X-Ray told me, "Yep, it's broke alright. Just give it time, it'll heal. You might walk with a limp but it will heal." Time will not heal a broken heart no more than it will a broken leg.
I'm just trying to prepare you for the Grief Pandemic. I'm trying to prepare myself for the Grief Pandemic as well.
In closing, I want to tell you that you're not alone. Help is available, doing the call and work is on your side of the street.
From my heart to yours,