Waves of Grief

Death and grief have their way with us in life. They change us. These beautiful thoughts from an old man ring true and bring comfort.

When Asked for Advice on How to Deal with Grief, This Old Man Gave the Most Incredible Reply

    

Someone on reddit wrote the following heartfelt plea online:

“My friend just died. I don’t know what to do.”

Many people responded with words of encouragement, but one response in particular, by an older gentlemen, really stood out from the rest…

Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love.

So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

 

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out.

But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.

 

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Was this you in This Is Us season premiere?

For those of us who have lived with an alcoholic, the storyline of Jack, the beloved father, and his wife, Rebecca, in This Is Us will be hauntingly familiar. In this scene when Jack confesses to Rebecca – “I’m drunk right now. I’ve been drunk for weeks” – she’s not just heartbroken, she’s shocked.

Have you ever been asked: ‘How long was he drinking? Didn’t you know?’ Yes, we eventually discover their secret, but at first we second guess our senses: I must be mistaken. It can’t be. My husband was a social drinker. How would I know when that first drink wasn’t social, but medicinal? How many of us know when the alcoholism began?  To this day, almost nine years after Robert’s death, I still try to pinpoint when he slipped from a Scotch with dinner, to sneaking in Scotch before breakfast. I’ve constructed timelines, and re-read a decade of day planners. My mind constantly rewinds snippets of yesteryear: the thud of his car trunk being closed in the dead of night; never being without his backpack; overdoing the mints and mouthwash. When did all the secrecy and deceit begin?

For those of you who don’t watch This Is Us, please watch this scene. It was validating for me, I wonder if it will be for others.  His wife hasn’t yet realized the enormity of it all; it’s a ‘drinking problem’ not alcoholism. “I know you’re not an alcoholic.” To which Jack replies: “You don’t know everything about me. I’m drunk right now. I have been drunk all day. I’ve been drunk for weeks. And I thought I had it under control like the first time, but I have a problem, Rebecca. And I’ve hidden it from you for a very long time. And I’ve hidden it from the kids. And I need to get a handle on it before I walk back into that house. I’m sorry, baby. I’m very embarrassed. And I am very sorry. I need to fix this, on my own.”

Rebecca takes Jack home, vowing, “If you have a problem, we will fix it together.” Most of us have learned it’s impossible to fix someone else’s problem. But I didn’t always know that. And Rebecca’s shock and innocence was validating as I recalled my own.