Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Grieving

Last week I had a dream that I cut my hand open on a piece of stray glass. After I got the bleeding to stop, I noticed that the wound was not healing. It was open, and when I looked inside, I could see clear to the bottom of my hand. I dreamt I was rushing around trying to show someone my wound, but no one seemed to notice or care. I have thought about that a great deal since then, and can only confirm that especially with my current grief process I do occasionally feel like I am nursing an open secret wound.

I am not writing now in an effort to discount all the sincere sympathetic recognitions of my grief over the past three weeks, or to necessarily elicit more, but merely to express my own thoughts about grieving, and perhaps create an avenue through which to allow others who may be grieving to feel that they need not suffer silently, as I occasionally feel I am expected to.

Shakespeare said in Macbeth to "Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break." As this quote obviously goes way back, I feel there is a precedent to talk about suffering, but it is often difficult to find a way. I have felt with this recent loss of my baby, and with the loss before that, that when I was grieving it was hard to be around people, especially large groups, because I never know who is aware of my situation, and therefore I feel like I have to go around acting normal when I feel anything but.

Even when I would like to talk about what I am experiencing or how I feel I often lack the words. Recently I have come across some quotes that express it well. Here are two from some books I have been reading,

“Madame and Monsieur Dyson were gone now. They’d crossed over to that continent where grieving parents lived. It looked the same as the rest of the world, but wasn’t. Colors bled pale. Music was just notes. Books no longer transported or comforted, not fully. Never again. Food was nutrition, little more. Breaths were sighed. And they knew something the rest didn’t. They knew how lucky the rest of the world was.” --From A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny


"It surprised him that his grief was sharper than in the past few days. He had forgotten that grief does not decline in a straight line or along a slow curve like a graph in a child's math book. Instead, it was almost as if his body contained a big pile of garden rubbish full of both heavy lumps of dirt and of sharp thorny brush that would stab him when he least expected it."--From Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson

These have resonated with me. But the truth is my findings are not limited to these two quotes. I have been hearing and seeing evidence everywhere of grief in the world, and I have decided two things. The first is that I am not the only person to grieve, nor is my grief the greatest--so many people endure difficulties beyond my ability to comprehend. The second is that talking about my grief may give voice to what someone else could be feeling.

I recognize that it is not always condoned to bare your soul publicly. I have heard private suffering praised, and admired those with "stiff upper lips." I have read Sense and Sensibility. But in spite of all that, I also know that expressing my grief not only validates the way I feel, but helps me slowly, when I'm ready, let go of it. And hopefully it might help someone else, somewhere else do the same.


  1. Indeed and amen. I'm so sorry that it has been so difficult. That last quote about it hitting you when you least expect it especially rings true to me. I often feel that, especially since my big loss happened 2.5 years ago, people are really thrown off if I express anything but resolved closure, as though I've well exceeded my allotted time to grieve. If that were true, then certain things probably shouldn't hit me in the stomach like they still do. And grief is just messier than that. It doesn't just go away like a bad case of food poisoning. And just because your grief appears less than others doesn't mean it's any less valid.

    I'm so sorry. I wish I could be there to help somehow... like somehow magically smoothe over any awkward social settings, or at least deflect the awkwardness somehow. And I wish we could sit and chat mire often. Hmm... it seems a trip up your way might be in order! :)

  2. Thanks for your post, Kelli. Having recently experienced something similar, and having your same propensity for words, I really appreciated this. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  3. Ah, but your good with words. I think it's perfectly healthy and acceptable to have these outlets for grieving. There are so many ups and downs (and sideways) to grieving that you have to express things somehow. I'm glad you did - and you should feel free to continue, as you process things.
    We're still thinking of you guys and praying for you.

  4. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments, and thoughts and prayers.

    @Liz, we would love to see you out here, and one of these days we'll make it over to the Bend. :)

  5. Beautiful words. Thinking of your family always.