I lost my mom over a year ago and I am still overcome at times with waves of grief. It will come in unexpected moments, like when I hear John Denver singing "Country Roads' on Pandora and remember it was one of my mom's favorite songs. Memories are weird like that, shooting out at your heart while you are doing ordinary things. Sometimes I can find it comforting but mostly it unsettles me with the loss all over again.
I heard someone say recently that "Grief is unstuck from time". I have thought about that phrase a lot lately. We like to talk about the cycle of grief and its stages, but the reality of grief is that a song or a phrase or a million other things can send you back into its murky hold, again. It is indeed unstuck from time; the acute pain of loss subsides but can hit you in a flash when you aren't even looking for it.
You might wonder why I chose to write about this today. Part of it is because my own loss has become mixed into the greater loss around us: the war in Ukraine, the mass shootings, even a loved one's recent loss of a beloved pet. I need to know that grief is not my constant companion, that I have not invited it to walk next to me like a friend. Is grief a comrade or is grief an enemy? That is what I am grappling with.
I know you have felt grief because we all have losses. Some are personal and others are collective. We have all suffered in different ways through the pandemic and we all share the horror of mass shootings that have become commonplace. And so on.
Grief, even as it hurts my heart, is something to be embraced, I think. It means we had something important enough to us that we acutely feel its loss. It is bittersweet in that way: we loved and we suffered for it. But we are better because we cared about something or someone beyond ourselves and that surely makes humanity better, kinder, more compassionate. I don't savor the feelings around grief when they hit me, but I do have gratitude for a life rich enough to feel the losses.