I’m currently enrolled in GriefShare at a nearby church, and we meet every Sunday night. Previously, I had only been involved in weekly 1-on-1 counseling, something which I continue now biweekly. Being in a group setting has been a great step forward for me. My heart breaks for everyone in there with me – people who have lost their parents, their spouses, their children. It’s cathartic to be alongside others who can understand your loss, and to be there for others in their time of need – people who are seeking so earnestly for anything that can help deal with their pain.
One thing that I’ve come to appreciate about GriefShare is how it helps me remember where I was a year ago, as compared to where I feel I am today. Several of the folks in our group are experiencing their first holiday season without their loved ones, while this will be my second.
Recently, someone in our group said “it’s okay to not be okay.” This took me back as I remember hearing the same thing from my counselor early on in my grieving process. I remember how it gave me comfort to know that others weren’t expecting me to be okay all the time, and that it was more than reasonable to not be okay while grieving the loss of my wife, especially during the holiday season.
The other thing that struck me though was the contrast to now talking with my counselor about how “it’s okay to be okay.” Now, unlike then, I actually have some days that seem normal (whatever that is). I’m no longer bawling my eyes out daily, and I’m no longer breaking down at least once a week – and honestly, it’s disconcerting. I need to be affirmed that it’s okay for me to be okay, and no longer just that it’s okay for me not to be okay.
One thing, of many, that I’ve learned from my counselor is how grief in many ways is what helps us keep feeling connected to our loved ones that have passed. When I mourn the death of my wife, when I cry from missing her, I feel close to her – it’s the closest I feel to her now that she’s gone. And so, when I go for a week, or two weeks, without mourning her death, it makes me feel callous. It makes me feel uncaring. It makes me feel like I don’t really miss her, or that I don’t really love her as much as I once did. When I think about it rationally, I know that these are all lies.
The call to grieve our loved ones that have passed, and the desire to feel that emotion and passion of a loved one lost, are real. There will always be that calling to grieve, and yes, sometimes, I will continue to indulge in that grief. But, I also know that I don’t have to stay stuck there. Time marches forward, and it’s okay to be okay – or not.
One song that comes to mind when I think about where I’m at in my grief journey today is a hip-hop song by Mac Miller called ‘2009’. Unfortunately, Mac passed away from an overdose just over a year ago after putting this song on his last album. To me, the song is about grief, rediscovering happiness, moving forward from grief, but also understanding that it is always there if we ever want to revisit it. A fan of his put together a tribute to Mac using this song after he passed (warning: profanity):
Now every day I wake up and breatheMac Miller, quotables from ‘2009’
I don’t have it all but that’s alright with me
And sometimes, sometimes I wish I took a simpler route
Instead of havin’ demons that’s as big as my house
I was diggin’ me a hole big enough to bury my soul
Weight of the world, I gotta carry my own
It ain’t 2009 no more
Yeah, I know what’s behind that door
As the grief subsides, there will be days that are almost normal again – and that is okay. Similarly, in the beginning, and even years later, there will be days that we aren’t okay – and that’s okay too. Just focus on doing your best, and trying to enjoy today – I want you to be happier.