In grief, I am often found snapping at people, finding myself wanting to be jealous or bitter, feeling confused and forgetful and oftentimes crying…sometimes for no good reason. I think it’s fairly safe to say these are “expected” actions of a bereaved parent.
But Sometimes, I want to smile. I want to be happy. I need to be. And here’s the catch about smiling in society today… It seems to indicate to many “non grievers” that
A) you’re over your “grief period” and can now ‘resume normal life’.
B) you never cared about the person at all really and the tears were ‘just a show’.
Of course, neither is true.
The thing is that in grief, you carry the weight of your little boy or girl with you all the time, wherever you go. And though they may not have weighed much physically, over time, carrying them can take its toll.
Any fitness trainer can tell you that, over time, carrying even a small weight with you begins to feel heavier, and heavier until your muscles burn as if they had caught fire, they shake, threatening to drop the weight and you’re sure there’s a hundred extra pounds that have been added to the weight once you initially lifted it. You finally get to a point where surrender is imminent…you can no longer carry it because it weighs you down so much and you know you must let go and let it smash to the ground. After this, your burning muscles feel an instant weightless celebration of jello-like freedom from letting go of something that never seemed all that heavy when you started.
Grief is the same way in that the weight of loss doesn’t seem too heavy at first. It’s definitely present, but it’s a ‘necessity’ we carry with us. It felt, for me, like a type of ‘responsibility’ to carry in honor of my son. But then, it starts to get heavier, more inconvienient and less understood…. And it seems the weight has doubled, then tripled and suddenly you find yourself carrying grief that weighs you down so much that you’re on your knees, barely moving, feeling more defeated than you knew you could. You try your best to hold the grief. To move underneath the weight of it, and seem to fail ever time. You try To survive this. You do your best, but eventually it gets to you and everything hurts and you don’t understand how it go to be so very incapacitatingly heavy. And you have to drop the weights of grief and let them slam to the floor.
And then, you smile a real smile. Maybe even laugh. You feel that rare emotion called “happy”.
You have a “good moment” or even a “good day”… And it feels like your muscles do when they can finally drop that weight and let go of the pain and burning and suffering they’ve endured. You let go of all the ‘heavy’ of grief, and enjoy the moment where you can smile or laugh. You can enjoy a rare moment when thoughts of your sweet little one don’t consume your every action and word and deed.
Laughing strengthens you for the challenges you know will return.
It doesn’t mean you’ve healed. It doesn’t mean you’re ‘ready’ to move on. It doesn’t mean you never loved them. It doesn’t mean grief is over. It doesn’t mean you forgot about the past or are ignorant about the future return of grief. It doesn’t mean you don’t hurt. It just means that in this moment, you are able to feel the happy that has seemed so distant for so long.
A smile helps you drop the weights and let go for a moment, so that you can be stronger for the challenges that lie ahead. It reminds me that grief isn’t all ‘bad’, though to seems as though sometimes.
Many, many times we, the bereaved, must force our smiles through pain, share happy moments with others though our hearts are heavy with grief within us, and try to act ‘normal’ though it seems so far away and distant.
But it is these moments, where I feel the ‘real’ me shine through, where my smile isn’t forced but rather comes from within, where I can feel happy…that help remind me that I am not lost but rather buried. And that over time I can and will dig out of this pile of weights and misery and anchors that we term ‘grief’.
So, to the non-bereaved here is what I want to say: Don’t assume anything. Yes it hurts. No it isn’t over. Yes those ‘bad days’ will return, but for this moment, Let me be happy. I haven’t forgotten. Smile with me. Laugh with me. Don’t be afraid to enjoy my ‘good moments’ with me. Share your happiness with me. And understand that smiling through the pain is part of my growth and healing. So smile when I smile and laugh when I laugh. Help me remember who I am. Let me be free of the weights I carry so many other moments and days…if only for this moment.
Thank you friend.