We had been fortunate enough to not have experienced deep personal grief, until a month ago when Adam’s father took his life and his wife’s.
It was a curveball we didn’t see coming, and tragic in so many ways. We are still in the early days of processing this loss, but I am learning a lot about grief itself. I haven’t read much about grief so maybe everyone already knows this stuff, but we are learning all of this for the first time.
I was vaguely aware of the stages of grief. I expected to be angry and sad and bargain and accept. I expected to feel those things towards the people we lost. I thought we would grieve for Papa Stu and Grandma Cindy. Instead it seems like grief is something that is happening to us instead of for them. I didn’t expect that all the emotions of grief would just envelop us in seemingly disconnected ways. I have been surprised at how randomly angry, irritated or sad we have all been. I don’t know why I expected grief to be tidier, but it isn’t. It is messy.
I thought grief would make us better people. It has brought out the best in us in a lot of ways, but it has also strained us so that our worst has shown through. Immediately after the deaths it was easy to be easy. Everything felt clear and easy to not sweat the small stuff because you are so overcome by the big stuff. But I didn’t recognize how stressful grieving can be and eventually that stress wears you down and you slip back into old frustrations and annoyances. I felt tremendous guilt about feeling less than easy. I felt like if I couldn’t be the best partner in a hard situation then I would never be able to be a good partner. Fortunately a friend asked me why I thought this moment would magically fix all the areas that need improving in my life. She asked me “why now?” which helped switch the light bulb on for me. Grief can’t be the band-aid for other problems. Grief is a thing unto itself. Just because it is impacting other areas of your life doesn’t mean it is going to transform you, in fact it might do the opposite.
And finally I am learning not to expect in general. I never know when Adam might come home and be having a really hard time. I also don’t know when our next magical day might be, like this Monday when we visited baby goats, foraged for wild strawberries and discovered the tiniest of turtles. It was perfect … but even that doesn’t feel pure, since this loss is always in the back of our minds now, even on the good days. The good and the bad is all intertwined and hard to predict. Just like life, and death.