I am a big believer in not wasting my miseries. I try to learn from them, especially if they are teaching me things that I may be able to share with others in their miseries.
Grieving provides an excellent opportunity to sit on your own shoulder and observe yourself but also yourself in relation to others to see what this experience is teaching you.
Before any of my grief counseling homies get on my case, I recognize that sitting on one’s shoulder to observe one’s self may be a defense against the very thing one is observing. Some might say that self observation of an experience is different from just experiencing. To look at your grief and turn it this way and that is not the same thing as grieving.
Cool . I get it. I would just say that maybe self-observation of grief is itself a form of grief and not an escape from grief…but whatevuuuh….
I pay attention to little things.
For example, many people lovingly inquire as to how I am doing. That’s a wonderful thing, especially if they really want to know how I’m doing.
Usually when people ask that I reply, “I’m fine.”
I get a couple of reactions. Some folks say, “Well, I’m glad you are doing well. I know it must be hard.”
And I say, “Yes, it is.”
But then some folks act as if they don’t believe me.
“how are you doing, Jim?” they ask.
Then their heads drop and their bottom lip protrudes and they say, “I know you aren’t fine.” Or, “Are you sure you’re fine?” or “Are you reallllly sure, you’re fine?”
I get that these people want to know how I’m doing and I do appreciate that. However, if I say I’m fine, please don’t treat me as if I am lying to you. If I say, “I’m fine…” trust me…I’m fine.
After having had a few of these experiences, I realized that there are several things that may be going on. As I’ve already said I know many people just really want to know how I’m doing and they want to be sure of how I’m doing. Thank you!
But then I’ve had a few encounters in which the other person can’t take my word for it because they NEED for me to NOT be fine. I don’t mean that they want me to be miserable . No. They need for me to needful, a little lost, struggling so they can clutch me to their bosom and make everything okay.
Now, I’m all for bosoms and people coming alongside of me in my grief but only because they want to and not because they NEED to.
I know about that because I used to be guilty of it: I needed to be needed. As a result, I was drawn to every loss, every tragedy, every hurt NOT because I wanted to be but because I needed to be.
I needed to be the comforter. I needed to be the person people turned to. I needed to be in thick of it.
I guess I needed to feel heroic.
But one day I woke up and thought: “What am I doing?” I got on top of that need real quick. My life has been better for it.
But then I thought about another issue here and that has to do with what I mean when I say, “I’m fine.” Maybe the person who hears me say that thinks that the mixed bag of emotions that accompanies grief is a problem, an aberation. Something to be fixed.
Some of that is cultural. We are big believers in the fix. You don’t get to suffer long if you are taught from the time you come into this world that the whole point of living is the pursuit of happiness.
How can you look so sad and claim to be fine? How can you be hurting and be fine all at once? How can you keep to yourself at this time and be fine?
Let me put it this way:
I wake up almost every morning and burst into tears. That’s what grieving people do. It doesn’t mean I’m not fine. It means I’m right on course in this grief journey. I’m fine.
Sometimes I feel really angry. Every now and then some resentment pushes its way into my head. I’m right on course. I’m fine.
Sometimes I don’t eat. I’m fine.
Linda loved Mary Englebreit. Go figure. She had an ME quote a day calendar and some days she’d tear off the quote for the day and bring it to me and tell me that it made her think of me.
This morning I was going through stuff to toss or to store and came upon that calendar. A sentimental tsunami swept over me. I cried. I’m right on course. I’m fine.
We went to Hilton Head in 2018. We were with Amber and the girls. We went to play miniature golf at Pirate’s Cove. This morning I ran across the score card. She had kept it. Know why? Because she won! It was the only time in her life that she had actually won at something. I felt both sad and happy at once.
“She was so sweet.” I’m fine.
Sometimes during the night I reach over to pat her arm. Then, I realize it’s just a pile of clothes I left on the bed. An emptiness rises up in me and once again I am reminded. But I’m right on course. I’m fine.
I pick up something of hers to give to some charity. And, I think, “Better not toss this. She may need it.” Then I remember. I’m right on course. I’m fine.
I can’t throw things away that meant nothing to me but meant something to her. I’m fine.
I pick up things and they magically disappear. It was just in my hand. Now where is it? I’m on course. I’m fine.
I’m grouchy. I’m fine.
Sometimes I think she’d better off with me in COVID land than with Jesus in the land of the cloudless day. Some of my deepest convictions about where she IS do not bring me joy because I am so overwhelmed by where she IS NOT. I’m fine.
Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn…” He said that because he knew that if you are living in this world and not mourning, not touched by its multiplicty of horrors, not wistful about some better day, it is because you don’t know what time it is.
My God…how the world suffers.
But, if you mourn that…you are fine. “…you will be comforted.”
So, if you encounter me walking the wee hounds with a poop bag in one hand and my heart in the other, don’t worry. I’m fine
If you see me picking a mournful song on the old geetar, I’m fine.
If my mind seems a mile away, , that’s becauseI I am in the grip of a longing… .
If you see me dropped to my knees and pounding God’s earth with my fist..
I’m right on course.