Our culture has some odd phrases we use when we talk about someone who has experienced loss. We talk about getting over the loss quite often. We generally want to know if people are doing okay, and if they have moved past the grief. Grief is a mountain to climb; indeed, some people are said to have never gotten over it.
Through the past two months I have spoken repeatedly to my family about the ability we have to hold two or more thoughts and/or feelings within us at the same time. Thus it was perfectly normal to say I don't want my mother to die and I don't want my mother to suffer. We acknowledge that both of these feelings/beliefs exist within us, that they may be at odds with each other, and that in the end we may not be able to have both. That doesn't mean that wanting both is wrong.
It can be the same way with grief. I can say I am sad that my mother died and I need to get on with the rhythm of life. I can walk my path with grief as a close companion for a few miles. I think it is important to be able to say I am sad that my mother died and I am happy to be listening to my children play. It really irks me that some people equate grieving with the loss of all happiness.
Death is part of life. We all hear it, we all know it, and yet when faced with it we deny it. My mother's death was the end of her life, not the end of mine, and not the end of my father's. It is unfair to expect us to hide in our houses crying, unable and unwilling to get on with living. It is unfair to judge us when we do continue living.
Grief is personal. We all cry at different times, feel sad at different times, and we cry and feel sad for different amounts of time. Grief may pop up on the path at any time, even years from now.
As a repeat depressive, one who has had a plethora of diagnoses tossed at me, I am expected, at least by the medical community, to move into a major depressive episode. But I laugh in the face of the psychiatric community. I learned how to be my own therapist. I learned a few things that could take the place of psychiatric medications. When I feel sad, I let myself feel sad and I acknowledge that it will pass. Believing that keeps me out of the hole. The first two days after my mother's funeral I wanted to stay in bed, to not think, to not have responsibilities. I recognized that I had a choice to make: depression or life. I do not believe that life co-exists with depression; oh yes, the body still functions, but all vitality disappears. Depression is like a suicide that happens mentally instead of physically. I say this having spent several years of my life mentally dead.
So last Thursday and Friday, I acknowledged my sadness and eventually got out of bed. The grief was strong, so I didn't expect much from myself, but I did choose to cling to my vitality. I cried, a lot. Saturday and Sunday were a little better, but I knew I was on the precipice. So I told myself that Monday I would have to get back into rhythm. I took a long, hot bath that morning and I knew that I had chosen life, and I feel much better now. Grief is still my companion, but she is less obtrusive now, and she is more likely to remind me of good memories rather than pain.
Grief isn't something to get over or to move past. Grief is a part of life. We all experience it, in little ways and big ways, over and over again until it is our time to die. The lessons of grief remind us how wonderful it is to be alive now, to love now, to think now. This moment is all the sweeter knowing that it will never be repeated.