I have, yet again, been thinking a lot about grief. My online dictionary defines grief as “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.” Then there is that bible study I remember from my childhood. A biblical scholar could probably name the book and verse, but I just remember the message. There was a mother whose child had died. She asked Jesus to bring her baby back to life. He told her to visit the village, find one household that had not suffered loss. If she could find one, he would bring her baby back. She toured the village, she was not successful. But she came back changed. She realized she was not alone. Loss, and grief, are universal truths. Loss is defined as “the state of being deprived of or being without something that one has had.”
After Jim died, I wrote about grief. I wrote a lot, almost everyday, at least a few times a week. It was a way to ease my suffering and my sorrow. It was cathartic. I also read a lot about grief. I subscribed to a widow’s blog, where different folks wrote once per week about their grief process. It was important for me to know that I was not alone. I was looking for a road map, a way to make it through a valley that in many ways felt darker than death. In writing and reading, I was looking for light in the darkness, joy in my sorrow. I found some. It helped.
As time and healing went on, I wrote less. Days would go by where I read the news instead of widow blogs. I came to realize that there was no emerging on the other side of grief, but I became more comfortable with it inside of me. I absorbed it, and let it just be part of who I now am. I also realized that I had nothing new to say. Loss and grief are universal truths. There was nothing I could write that had not already been written, and by someone trained to write more than evaluation reports.
I fell in love again. I married a man that I met when he was recently separated, and then divorced. I once had a friend tell me that of the two pivotal events in his life, cancer and divorce, the loss of love was much harder to bear. Cancer was not personal, his divorce was filled with painful regrets. I got to see this first hand with my new husband. My personal grief did not go away, but it expanded to include his.
Everywhere we turn, there is loss and grief. I spent yesterday skiing at the Palouse Divide. It was the John Crock Memorial Cabin dedication. I spent some time following his beautiful widow down the trail. The late Nancy Taylor’s husband was up there with his new girlfriend, we swapped taking photos. Today is the 1 year anniversary of the shootings in Moscow that killed 3 members of our close knit community. There are multiple occasions going on in town for that event. Friends and family of mine made it through their first holiday season without a spouse or partner, parent or child, that they lost to death, divorce, or separation. Folks are newly diagnosed with terminal diseases or life altering conditions. Everyone is scrambling to find a new normal.
Grief is a universal emotion. If we love, we risk loss. We will lose the people we love, the places we care for, our old passions and livelihoods. We will lose our youth, our health, and eventually our own lives. I don’t say this to dismiss our keen mental suffering. It is a perfectly normal response to feel sharp sorrow. I also know that, just because I have been “on the front lines”, does not mean that I have any magic words to make your sorrow better, to take away your suffering. I just hope we can all take comfort in knowing that we are not alone.