Dealing With Unexpected Grief
Grief happens, because it is a part of life, and life happens. We all experience grief in different ways, and at different times. There are stages of grief, and they are well documented by experts. My story today was inspired by a recent wave.
I have been lucky, to be 42 years old, I have lost some of my grandparents, and their siblings, and two of my uncles; but most of my immediate family members are alive. I dread the coming days when that changes. It will happen, and I will have to deal with it unless I die before the rest of my family. I don’t dwell on it, and I don’t live in fear of what will be. We all have our time, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. What we can do is live, and try to follow the moral guidelines we hold dear to our souls.
In the years since I have moved to Fredericton, NB, I have experienced the loss of some friends. It is a hard thing to learn to live with, the loss of a close friend. There are two people in particular that I am thinking of. They were my friends, and I still miss them.
I don’t focus on the loss, once time passes, and the funeral becomes a little less fresh in my mind. I have a lamp that one of these friends gave me, at my desk. It has an arm and hinges to tighten to hold the lamp in the position I want it to stay in.
Every once in a while, the lamp tilts down. I have always seen this as my friend’s ghost checking up on me. It may sound silly, but I say hi to him whenever it has fallen down. This friend became ill when a virus attacked his heart. He had some time to prepare for the end, and we all knew it would happen. We had all gathered in the hospital to show support for him and his wife, near the end. It struck me hardest before he was gone, one of our mutual friends had gone in to see him, and he was not in very good shape. I wanted to know if she had told him that my husband and I were there, so he would know. She said she had told him for us. When this friend dropped me off at home, I was alone. I leaned against my door, after I had closed it, and had my cry. I cried off and on for a week, little fits here and there, but that was my moment when I let myself feel the pain of losing that friend.
On New Year’s Eve, 2016, I was with the same group of friends, celebrating the beginning of 2017. It was our annual house party, and it is always a potluck. We meet, have a few drinks, eat, talk, and play games. If there is a World Juniors Hockey Game being aired, my husband makes our hostess turn on a TV, so he can enjoy what is notably the best hockey in the world, especially if Team Canada is playing.
When we came home, it was 2017. I had enjoyed a lovely evening and was in good spirits. I walked over to my desk, and the lamp had tilted while I was out. I said hello and happy new year and did something I haven’t done before. I sent a group message to the other friends that were at the party with me and passed on the story, and a happy new year from our friend’s ghost. It felt like the right thing to do.
The other friend died more recently, we are quickly approaching the one year mark. We became fast friends when we met on a dance floor. I had talked to her on occasion before that night. When my friends wanted to bail I asked her if I was welcome to hang out with her for the rest of the evening, and it started a beautiful friendship that ended way too soon.
It was the big C she was fighting when she lost the battle. Cancer is awful, and she fought like a warrior; until she couldn’t anymore. My friend was vibrant, beautiful, and had just started a new phase in her life. She had moved away for school. She was an artist, and learning was something she was passionate about. We kept in touch on Facebook, and she was really enjoying the courses she was taking.
One day she confided in me that she had found a lump, and it was cancer. I stayed in touch, and we chatted about school, her cats, her treatments, and her apartment adventures. One day I realized that she hadn’t been saying much. She was losing her fight. I started a conversation; that was the last one we were going to have. I was trying to be supportive and positive. It wasn’t working. So, I did what I do best. I got her laughing. We went down a silly path in that conversation about her feelings about cancer. She got to vent, creatively. I like to think I helped her deal, in a very small way.
This week, I saw an ad for a band I like that is coming to town. I always go to see them, and I don’t plan anything different this time around. I was sharing it on my wall when it hit me. I had introduced my friend to this band before she moved away. We had a blast, and she liked them, too. She was a people watcher and was confused by the mixture of people and styles of the other fans that were there. We decided that they were Preppies, Hipsters, and Lumberjacks. Plaid and beards and all mixed with a few clean-cut well dressed glasses wearing people. An odd mixture, but all present enjoyed the show, as always. I took her a little out of her comfort zone that night, but we had a lot of fun, and it was worth it.
So the other night, when the memory of seeing the band with her the last time they were in town hit me, I was sitting at my desk; overwhelmed with grief. I let the tears fall. It was completely unexpected but necessary. That’s the thing about grief, it has to run its course. Things happen, and you feel sad sometimes. It is what it is. It is healthier to deal with the feelings when they arise, instead of bottling them inside, where they fester and grow. Not letting your feelings out is toxic, and it never ends well, because instead of a healthy release, it could be an explosion, and the aftermath of that could be a bigger disaster than you are able to handle. So focus on the good times, and the memories that make you smile. When you need to express your grief, you don’t always get to choose when or how that happens, but it is necessary to help you move past the grief being so heavy on your heart all of the time. There is nothing wrong with grieving, and I do cry when I am overcome with grief. I try to be alone if I can, but you can’t plan it every time. You just have to deal with it, and keep moving forward, until it isn’t so raw. The important part is to let it out, so you can begin to heal.
It never goes away. I will always miss my friends, but I am still here, and I have to keep on living. One minute at a time, to a day at a time; whatever I am capable of in that moment. My first friend made me promise to take good care of my health, and I am honouring his memory by doing my best to be healthier. My second friend was an artist, and I am working towards writing a book this year. She would be proud that I am working on a lifelong goal, and as we had talked about many things during our friendship; she would also be happy to know I am working on my health and cleaning and organizing my house before getting the book started. She had a preferred method for upkeep on cleaning styles, and I plan to get that method in place when the deep clean is done, so I keep up with it for the long-term. That is how I am honouring her memory. This is important too, it helps me keep them in my heart, without causing more grief. If you don’t have a special way to honour the memory of a lost loved one, start one.
Random acts of kindness are a positive way to do good for someone else, and in your heart, it can be from your loved one, in their memory. Take whatever time you need to decide what it will be, and follow through. This way, it won’t just be yourself that you help, it just might help someone else cope a little better in their day, too. Even if it only makes you feel better for an hour, it is a start, and by helping others, you can begin to help yourself heal in a positive way.