Grief Has No Timeline
This weekend I realized I have been feeling a low-grade melancholy, a heaviness of heart that cannot be attributed to the winter blues. (I live in draught-stricken California where winter has been eerily non-existent.) What I’m feeling is peculiar to the time of year; it is grief. A few weeks from now marks the four-year anniversary of my husband’s death after his unexpected yet intense two-month battle with cancer.
A part of me wants to push this sadness away, resist. Not this again! My life is going well. I feel strong, happy and productive. I have much to be grateful for: a new beloved, loyal friends, meaningful work, and my health. Yesterday my oncologist told me my mammogram was clear. My profession includes helping others to live mindfully with the full breadth of their human experience, joy and sorrow, beauty and tragedy. Even so, I sometimes forget that grief is a process, not an event. It knows its own timing.
Given all of this, it was perfect timing for me to watch Liam Neeson’s interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. For the first time in five years, Neeson spoke publically about how he is living with the loss of his wife, Natasha Richardson.
Neeson was tender and thoughtful. The ache of missing Natasha was present in his gaze. You can see the full 13-minute interview and a worthwhile 5-minute 60 Minutes Overtime interview here. These are healthy conversations to have in a culture that tends to rush through our discomfort like we hurry through traffic and meals rather than observe, reflect and just be.
Grief comes in waves and Neeson said that he still experiences profound feelings of instability, like a three-legged table. I can relate to that feeling of being sporadically discombobulated. One moment happy, the next a twinge of grief arises, a fresh awareness of what once was and is no longer.
My experience is similar. Fond memories of my late husband, Bob, surface out of nowhere and I catch myself staring wistfully across the horizon. I’d rather be sad from time to time than have that stop. I was lucky to know him. Watching the interviews, I remember all of this is normal. The grieving process is very individual. My sad feelings lessen with each passing year, but I’m just beginning to understand they might never go away completely. And that’s OK.
If you’ve lost a beloved in death and feel a similar mix of complex emotions, please know you are not alone. Holding it all with tenderness honors yourself and the person you miss.
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