"We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full." -- Marcel Proust
After the recent election, many in our country are experiencing deep grief. They are discovering that they must learn to understand grief and accept its power, in order to move forward. The word grievous is derived from the word grief meaning sadness. Grievous means something that is not just sad but severely painful. The loss of Peter is grievous and intense. It causes me wrenching heartache and pain. The election loss is a similar gut-wrenching pain to me, and to many in our country and abroad.
It is notable that pain is a symptom of an injury or illness. Grief pain is a symptom of an emotional injury. If I were physically injured, I would bandage the wound, tend to it with ointments, and allow time to heal. I would go through the pain knowing it would improve and heal. But with grief pain I know that the only way through is to feel the pain, use counselors and groups to soothe the wound, use friends and family to guide me through, and hope that I will emerge not healed, but with less pain. Those experiencing the loss of the election, must also use our strong friendships to adapt to their new world.
I know that keeping constantly busy helps to divert the pain but eventually I will have to confront it to be whole again. To treat the symptom of pain by distractions, drinking into a state of numbness, and drowning myself in sweets, will only delay the sting.
Writing is the instrument I employ to give me comfort and solace. Bringing up the thoughts and crying through my words is the only path I have towards restoring my soul. Humor is my tour guide to sanity. I have to Neosporin the crap out of this pain so that one day, in the future, I might feel some peace. Writing is a validation of my feelings. It is my creative path to restoration.
Grief is a 24/7 job with no vacations, no sick days, and a demanding employer. There are long hours and no chance of resigning. Can you imagine signing up for a full-time job without a single day off? In this job called grief there are no weekends off. Actually, weekends are the most difficult parts of the job. You have to slog through on your own and find a way to find a new self-identity. I feel as if grief has come into my heart as a tenant, taking up residence indelicately. It has rearranged the furniture. It sleeps all day and parties all night. It runs amok in my soul. It requires monthly payments on time. It requires maintenance. It requires a commitment to finish out the lease. I don't get my security deposit back. I have to make the repairs myself to heal my heart. I can't sublease it out. I must do the work myself.
Children instinctively know how to grieve. When toddlers lose a toy, they have a tantrum. They cry and carry on. They sob and demand to have the lost item returned. I know that I have lost something monumental and I am beginning to understand the instinctive need to express my pain and carry on. On many days, I don't want to be a grown up! I want to throw a tantrum and get the feelings out. Maybe being a brat is a good thing sometimes?
This job of grief puts me in uncharted waters. There are mazes and trails I must follow but I am unsure of where to turn. I have to get used to the pathways and find trail markers so that I can use these touchstones on my journey. There is no plan or blueprint to guide me. There is no schedule to keep me on track. I wander through the wilderness without a map, but I am not lost. The hope that I will find a new normality is my guiding light.
I use smart friends, who know to avoid clichés, as my guides. They call. They email, they text, they comfort me through my journey. I give them daily weather updates. Some days are sunny and I am productive. Then suddenly El Niño hits and I am having tear storms. Anything can set it off: a piece of music, a movie, or seeing a couple holding hands. My friends guide me back to the path so I can continue to slog through this job of grief and emerge into a sunlit day of hope.
I know I am walking alone. That is my job now. I have to keep walking until I can find some kind of normality. I will surely stumble, I may fall, but I can ask for help from friends and family to keep me upright on my journey. My loneliness is more than a feeling. My loneliness involves a reorientation of my life's trajectory. Recognizing and giving credence to my loneliness is a key step in my hope for a new normal. What this new normal is, I have yet to discover. That spirit of adventure is, in itself, a modicum of hope.