“They can only be carried.”

I read this beautiful post about four times and it took my breath away. Go ahead and read it:

http://www.timjlawrence.com/blog/2015/10/19/everything-doesnt-happen-for-a-reason.

When we received devastating news (almost exactly – Happy Thanksgiving to us!) two years ago I went from numb to feeling out of my mind in fairly short order. I managed to hold it together all day at work and would come home and, almost as if on cue, promptly dissolve into tears.  Ed knew what was going on and after about three days finally stopped asking, “What happened?” and would just sit by me because he knew it wasn’t anything in particular.  Just the grief washing over me.  Or, more accurately, kicking me in the teeth.

I quickly sought help from a therapist I had seen a few years prior due to panic attacks.  I told him what happened and asked him, “So, what do I do about this?”

“What do you mean?”

“How do I stop crying all the time?  I want to feel better.  And move on.”

He was straight-forward but gentle: You can try to power through this, but it’s going to be there.  You need to let yourself feel this and time will help.

“But it may also never completely disappear. What matters is how you choose to cope and live your life.”

That wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  My practical, can-do, list-lover side wanted a timeline and a process and some guarantees because my future had been turned upside down and wasn’t I owed some sort of assurances as consolation?

Fortunately and unfortunately, he was absolutely right. The grief has lessened with time and yet it seemed that as soon as I would start to feel a little better there was something new to bring me back to square one.  I grieved for myself, for Ed, for my parents. I would go from a place of peace and contentment to a guilt spiral. It isn’t, as much as my brain wanted this to be, something you can check off a list and move from Phase One to Two and so on.

I was also looking for some sort of silver lining or reason for this.  I desperately needed this to make sense or serve some greater purpose. That seems normal, right?  To try to find the bright side or at least give an appearance of being upbeat.  Basically: don’t be such a bummer.  Assure everyone it’s all OK so no one else has to be uncomfortable with your grief.

My therapist had suggested I talk to a couple of trusted friends about what was going on and ease some of my feelings of isolation. The people I spoke to were (and still are) kind and compassionate and so quick to offer the platitudes the author above references.  In some ways it backfired and made me feel more alone, although I absolutely recognize that was not the intent.  The message I received was, “Your sadness freaks me out and I’d like my funny friend back.” I had to work double-time to convince everyone around me that I was Fine. So fine, are you kidding? It’s a beautiful day!  It was exhausting to expend so much energy making sure people around me felt OK and then go home and let myself be.

It was freeing when I finally allowed myself the space I needed to be alone and pick and choose how and where I spent my time.  The grief eased up; we started making plans to move and I threw my energy into job and house hunting.  I asked my therapist if he thought moving was a mistake. “Are you excited by this? Does it feel like you’re running?  Because it sounds like self-care and like you’re moving forward, which is what you wanted, right? And you know this won’t solve all of your problems.”

It’s been a little over a year since we moved and he – and the author of the article I read – were absolutely right: the grief didn’t magically disappear. It can only be carried.

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4 thoughts on ““They can only be carried.”

  1. That is really touching. I’m sorry you’ve had to suffer through grief. In my view, it’s the shittiest part of the human experience because there is nothing you can do to end it, and only time can even ease it.

    • It is the worst part, but also pretty unavoidable if you allow yourself to care about anything or anyone ever. The thing that makes it worse (insult to injury, if you will) is when people around you try to minimize it, or help you see “the bright side” or identify where things went wrong (like I have a damn time machine?). I think that’s as natural as grief itself, in some ways, to want to fix it or provide answers. But you’re right: it’s just time and living through it.

  2. Good for you for sharing about this! I also liked that article. I struggle sometimes to fill the silence when someone I love gets hit with bad news. I hate spouting platitudes, but fear that saying little or nothing or just repeating “that sucks, I’m sorry for you” is perceived as flagellation or wallowing, or having poor social skills. I really appreciated this author’s attitude – sometimes things suck and the best one can do is acknowledge that they suck and offer to be there. Big love to you!

    • Thanks, Alex! And for what it’s worth, the people who have expressed caring and concern and acknowledged “that sucks” were more helpful than you’d think. I also find that when I preface things with, “I don’t expect you to solve this or help me, just listen so you know where I’m coming from and why I may be MIA/more sensitive/a little off my game” takes the pressure off the other person to say anything or be helpful. I’m sure you are more of a comfort to people around you than you realize! 🙂

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