Grief is work.
I wrote these three words on a picture of a brain divided into all of the emotions experienced by a “brain on grief.” Loss. Sadness. Rage. Depression. Confusion. Anxiety. Yearning. Resentment. Inadequacy. Pain. Envy. Hurt. Distrust. Betrayal. Loneliness. Apathy. Sorrow. Anguish. Emptiness. Abandonment. Helplessness. Fear. Bitterness.
I could go on, but by now, you have the picture of a brain on grief. It is not a pretty picture as these emotions bounce off each other, ching-chinging like a pinball but never falling into the machine’s drain. Each is present in my brain with every beat of my heart, with every breath I take and with every thought I think.
I wonder how long it will take for these emotions to synthesize and take a back seat to gracious acceptance? Every thing I read says every person’s journey is different. I like maps. “From A, you go to B, then to C. Take a left at D, then right at E. You have arrived at your destination.”
There is no GPS for grief. The road is filled with uncertain twists and turns. There is no map. Wouldn’t it be easier, I ask, if there was a map?
Each day I rise, I face a new day. I face another new day alone, separated from the one I shared life with for 38 years. All those balls in the brain machine start pinging immediately as I wash my face, brush my teeth, take out the dog, prepare my coffee, eat my breakfast and begin whatever plans are in place for the day.
Those plans always include grief work, because grief permeates every part of my being and every part of my day; I have to work to keep it from taking complete control, so I plod through the motions of a day. Folks who know me well know that I do not “plod.” I walk at a crisp pace, learned by being the daughter of a real nurse who knew that her pace might mean the difference between life and death. Yet I plod, in my head and in my heart.
Add to that plod a fog that surrounds my perspective and perception, and you get the picture of a head and heart working through grief.
In her blog on grief, Patti Fitzpatrick writes: “Intellectually you know that your loved one has died – you witnessed their last breath, you saw their body lowered into the ground, or you heard the doctors say ‘he is gone.’ Your head understands and accepts the death of your loved one but your heart simply cannot accept this news. Grief work is getting your heart to catch up with your head. When your head and heart are out of sync, you feel particularly lost and vulnerable.”
Thanksgiving is a time to watch a parade, cheer a football team and eat some mighty good food, right? Oh, how I wish it was, but my faith teaches me that this one day, and, by the way, every day is a day to give thanks in all things. In all things. Not for all things. In all things. Including the death of my beloved.
“In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Through this season of confusion and bouncing emotions, I find it difficult to give thanks; therefore I will place my faith in the God who carries me through times such as this, knowing that He understands fully and that he will bring my heart and head together in his timing. He will bring me to a place of gracious acceptance.
My work? To trust him and to depend on him, to lean on him with all of my being, head and heart included.