If we don’t know it, we should. Processed food is bad for us, yet this culture thrives on it. It causes obesity in children, now an epidemic, and creates an unhealthy pattern of eating that can actually cause addictions to the wrong kinds of food.

But I digress. Processing life is good for us, even when it is painfully agonizing. I find myself in that place and time as I grieve the loss of my sweet husband, Thurston. Many of you are also processing life after loss, and you will agree with me that the process is muddy, tear-filled, lonely and confusing.

Thurston left us too soon, at 72 years old, and I am angry about that. We had plans, expectations for our retired life together. They did not come to pass. Instead, I took care of him for 18 months as he steadily deteriorated. I tried to cherish every moment we had, but I don’t think I did it as well as I could (regret and doubt are part of the process as well).

Have I told you how hard I am on myself? Perhaps, if you are in grief, you are not giving yourself the benefit of processing your sadness, your loss. If you are like me, you may be trying to bravely move forward, convinced that everything will be okay. And, if you are like me, grief slaps you in the face one night and reminds you that everything is not okay, and it won’t be for a long time.

It’s a process.

I’m told that if you ever see pickles commercially processed, you will never eat another one. I love pickles so I choose not to expose myself to the process. Yes, they are one of those processed foods, but I eat them in moderation, usually with a sandwich in a snack shop. Just one, not the entire jar.

If I were to tell unsuspecting people about the process of losing a spouse, they would run, as I would probably run from those pickles. Most people don’t want to talk about grief. I’m learning that. They want to hear that I’m doing “well,” and moving forward … and I am, but not in the way many of them expect. My processing is full of tears, now that I’ve admitted I don’t “have it all together.”

It’s full of sadness and emptiness because the loss of one whose smile could light up a room and whose quirky sense of humor could rankle me like no other is more real than I want it to be. How I miss him, every day of every week of every month. Life, for me, will never be the same; and it won’t for you, either, fellow mourners.

People want us to be okay. They want to see smiles on our faces, hopefulness in our speech; but the truth is that the grief progress is a roller-coaster endeavor. Fast and furious. Up one day, down the next. Up the next day, and down for three days in a row. Grief is also like a Ferris wheel, slowly turning, dipping low and rising high.

I cry freely when I see people who knew and loved Thurston. It makes them uncomfortable, and they are afraid that they have upset me. It’s my loss that upsets me, and when I tear up with you, it’s because I know you loved him, too. I’m not afraid of tears. As a child, my father stifled my tears and emotions. No more. I am an adult, and to quote a song, “I’ll cry if I want to; you would cry, too, if it happened to you.”

Though I was raised to “stop that crying,” I refuse to as an adult. It’s part of the process. I look ugly after I cry hard, but, friends, that is okay. Grief is ugly, yet it is as natural a process as breathing and celebrating. I’m learning that. My red, splotchy face, swollen eyes and nauseated stomach are part of the process, pretty or not; yet I’ll continue to cry if I want to. It’s a process of healing.

Contact the writer: writeharris55@gmail.com.