“A deep sorrow usually caused by the death of a loved one.”
“A multi-faceted response to loss.”
“A natural reaction to death.”
Those are all seemingly appropriate definitions of grief, but terribly inadequate to describe what grief truly is.
Grief takes on a life of its own for many people and though it affects thousands on a daily basis, each journey is different. Yet, the one thing all those grieving people have in common is that the journey feels like a walk down a winding path alone.
It manifests itself in countless ways.
Perhaps you’d think a grief-stricken person would be surrounded by piles of dirty laundry, or a sink full of unwashed dishes and maybe you’d be right. In like turn, however, someone trying to escape their sadness may have a cleaner house than ever before as they try to work out their emotions with mindless chores. The person who takes on more and more responsibility on the job, or who throws themselves into every hobby they can find, might have just as much of a broken heart as the one who hides away from life and retreats to their bedroom daily in tears.
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Grief is also very inconsistent and it ebbs and flows much like the ocean tides. At times it seems overwhelming and often for the smallest reason: a whiff of perfume, seeing a familiar sweater or a song played on the radio. Then other times it gives you a moment of reprieve to remember a happy moment, or a moment in which you are allowed to forget that your loved one is really gone. A moment of blissful ignorance where you can bask in the glow of yesterday before you were broken and before your world changed forever.
Grief is the void that fills your chest when you’ve picked up the phone and dialed an all too familiar number, only to hear it ring and ring until you remember there is no one to answer the other end of the phone anymore. It’s in the clothes hanging in the closet week after week with no one to wear them. It’s walking through a grocery store and picking up a favorite food, only to have to put it back because they aren’t here to enjoy that particular item anymore. It’s an empty church pew on Sunday morning. It’s being happy for a loved one to be at peace, but feeling abandoned and angry all the same because they left you. It’s in tears or anger or any other emotion that you can’t put into words. That’s grief. It’s no respect of gender, or race, or age or any other demographic factor because in the end it comes for us all.
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At this time of year in particular at tables with empty chairs, grief takes an unwelcome seat. Always present in some form or fashion, grief is a burden of love that simply has no where else to go. When there are no more meals to cook, or bandages to change, or calls to make — it’s a reminder of something that was there before and can’t ever be again. It’s a heaviness that feels impossible to bear. Grief is everything and nothing all at the same time.
If you know of someone going through a season of grief, or if you are in this dark place yourself, remember to show grace; grace to others and to yourself. It won’t fix it because nothing can, but it will mean a lot to the person who needs it.