Monday, December 2, 2019

Let's Be Honest about Grief

Grief is a weird thing. Some people are able to push through and they think everyone can, if they want to. Some people are paralyzed and it's confusing to them how the world even thinks they can function.

Most people manage to find their basic new level of functioning (because grief inaugurates a whole new era), but that functioning waxes and wanes. All of this is normal.

There's a tiny moment of acknowledging what grief is like in Frozen 2. It passes fairly quickly in a song, but it was true enough that I wanted to call out, "WAIT! Anna is telling us something real."

Elsa (the blonde one) has gone off on a quest, which has unexpected results. The consequences of this (SPOILER) is that Olaf (the snowman) disappears. Kristof missed the women's departure and he is searching for them, lamenting that he hasn't fully expressed his feelings to Anna. Thus, Anna is alone and she can perceive that something not good has happened. Olaf's disappearance means something has happened to Elsa and this fear and sadness and confusion hit Anna like a sheet of ice.

The song is called "The Next Right Thing" and the lyrics are very sharp. It won't be your six-year-old's favorite song, but it might be yours.

Besides the lyrics about being unable to rise, this section gets me right there:

Just do the next right thing 
Take a step, step again  
It is all that I can to do 
The next right thing
I won't look too far ahead 
It's too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make

Sometimes the next right thing is just taking a shower and changing the sheets before you get back in bed. Sometimes the next right thing is texting a friend to bring you groceries. Sometimes the next right thing is pausing before you click "buy" and asking yourself if you really need that new whatever (and maybe you do).

Grief is hard and it is everywhere.

It can look strange from the outside, but there's no timeline. There's no "should be past this" or "should be able to do X" or "should feel better by now". Grief moves in and takes its luggage to the thrift store on the second day because it has no plans to pack up and leave any time soon.

Confession: Every few weeks, I go to Rachel Held Evans's Instagram or Twitter feed because I am hoping that she's not actually gone, that there was a mistake, that she's still there- speaking words that bring hope to us all. That's my grief.

Confession: Sometimes I dream that I'm in my grandmother's house and I'm going through her drawers, trying to find something, anything of hers that can be mine. She's been dead for thirteen years, but the truth is that she was someone to me who she wasn't to others and both my missing her and that mystery of her behaviors haven't fully sorted themselves out yet.

Confession: A guy I dated died years after we dated and I'm still sad that he's not in this world, doing some of the amazing things that were his passion. And I miss his Kahlua chocolate chip cookies.

Grief takes up residence in your house and you learn to live with it. You cannot wait it out or force it out or pretend it's not there. Eventually, you change your own spiritual and psychological interior design based on your preferences in consultation with grief. So it is and so it will be.

Most of us are doing the best we can in the midst of fresh grief and griefs that have scarred over, but still ache on occasion. Like Anna, most of us are trying to breathe, take a step, and do the next right thing for us.

What I hope we can learn, if not from Frozen 2 then somewhere, is that it is okay not to be okay. It is okay to admit that we are sad, that we are grieving, that we are angry. Honesty IS the best policy and the whole truth, especially about grief, lets us share our burdens and helps others know they are not alone.

I say: more honesty about grief. It's the next right thing.


Church Grandma said...

Beautiful. Profound. Disturbing. And, comforting. (Everything I expect from your insight and writing.)
I live through grief by putting one foot in front of the other, when I would rather hide and cry.
Thank you.

karisa said...

What a gift you are through your truth-telling that connects deeply. Thank you for being you and for being vulnerable.

Janet said...

Thank you. This speaks great truth to me. I love the image that the suitcase takes itself to the thrift shop, because grief is not leaving anytime soon.

Nik said...

Hello friend, yes indeed: 'more honesty about grief.' Why is death the thing that dare not be named, and the effects of it quietly swept under a carpet? Shoot, I mean, it's the weirdest form of self-harm, in a sense: the thing that will ultimately happen to each one of us is the very subject we choose not to prepare for in any way. Western society in denial. Hmmm, is that a matter of privilege, I wonder - we allow ourselves the luxury of not dealing with death if we have the ability to look elsewhere but in those places where there's poverty, etc., that kind of privilege doesn't exist.
Rambling, but yes, I agree, we need to encourage grief to come out of the closet. Thanks for your post mate.