Over the weekend, my fiancé and I enjoyed sitting around the dining room table, playing cards with my future in-laws and happily chatting about the small list of our closest family and friends with whom we look forward to sharing our wedding day next year.
In the middle of that happy chatter, I heard a familiar voice – one that I hear quite often. Her name is Grief. She turns up unexpectedly, uninvitedly and always with the same message: “did you miss me? I’m here and I intend to stay for quite some time.”
Several years ago, my response would have been “dammit, why are you here? This is supposed to be such a happy time. You’re ruining everything.” These days, I’ve come to a place where I can understand that she hasn’t come here to hurt me. She’s come to surprise me with a gift: this beautiful, awful, painful bitter-sweetness that reminds me just how well loved I was by my mother to be feeling such sadness now.
“When a loved one dies, grief moves in. It becomes a part of your family. It sits at your dining room table, it attends every family holiday, it influences your kids, and it impacts your ability to parent. You can try to wait it out, thinking that if you don’t make space for grief it will eventually leave, but this never works because grief will just cram itself into corners and closets and all the other empty spaces it can find.” (WYG, 2018)
Through my practice, I try to help others embrace their grief. To make space for it. To invite the uninvited. A lofty goal when, for most of us, the first instinct is to run the other way. The thought of embracing grief can be terrifying – the risk that opening up to grief and staring it squarely in the face will hurt too much. Or, for some, the belief that they need to be strong for everyone else negates any willingness to be vulnerable.
“Strength and bravery more often look like staring the thing that scares you in the eye and saying — I know you will cause me pain, but I will deal with you; I know you will hurt a lot, maybe for always, but I will tolerate you; I know you will make me weak at times, but I will learn and grow despite you. And most importantly, I will make room for you because we’re all sick of tiptoeing around, wondering when you’re going to pop out from whatever small space you’re hiding in and scare us.” (WYG, 2018)
By making room for grief – inviting the uninvited guest – you’ve brought it out of the darkness. By acknowledging that grief is now as much a part of you and your family as your loved one was, you’ve created a space where your love for that person can continue not only to exist, but to grow.