Grief is so confusing.
People often say they feel like someone else - as if they have suddenly been thrust outside their own body and are observing a life they never expected to live.
Emotions run rampant and our defenses against them seem to abandon us. Tears flow, anger surfaces unexpectedly and sadness can seem like a permanent fog. It isn’t uncommon for someone to experience vertigo during grief and why wouldn’t they? The world they know and have trusted is suddenly upended. So it makes sense that we would lose our balance. And oddly it is comforting when we realize that much of the confusion we experience actually makes sense . . . given what we have lost.
Some people find analogies or comparisons helpful. Some how, when we can name what this experience “is like” it helps to normalize it and get it out in the open so we can begin to understand it. If we can describe it in some way, then we can begin to forgive ourselves for feeling so crazy, comfort ourselves with tenderness and find more patience to take the time and rest we need to recover.
Some say grief is like a firestorm that burns away everything that is familiar.
Some say grief is like a tsunami that suddenly crashes in with obliterating devastation.
Some say grief is like a filter over our eyes that cannot be removed.
Some say grief is like feeling your heart break.
Mary Oliver uses her amazing ability to plumb the very depths of our souls with yet another image:
It didn’t behave
like anything you had
ever imagined. The wind
tore at the trees, the rain
fell for days slant and hard.
The back of the hand
to everything. I watched
the trees bow and their leaves fall
and crawl back into the earth.
As though, that was that.
This was one hurricane
I lived through, the other one
was of a different sort, and
lasted longer. Then
I felt my own leaves giving up and
falling. The back of the hand to
everything. But listen now to what happened
to the actual trees;
toward the end of that summer they
pushed new leaves from their stubbed limbs.
It was the wrong season, yes,
but they couldn’t stop. They
looked like telephone poles and didn’t
care. And after the leaves came
blossoms. For some things
there are no wrong seasons.
Which is what I dream of for me.