“Grief is a force of energy that cannot be controlled or predicted. It comes and goes on its own schedule. Grief does not obey your plans, or your wishes. Grief will do whatever it wants to you, whenever it wants to. In that regard, Grief has a lot in common with Love.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
When grief comes, it’s never what we expect it to be, similar to love. With romantic love, we weave ourselves with four hands instead of two, into two people instead of one, somehow remaining a singular entity through it all. In grief, we’re partially unmade, we lose parts of ourselves made through some form of love, and we never know when it will strike.
Grief has no timeline. Minutes, days, months, years, can go by, and the loss still attacks you like a pack of wolves as if the object of your grief just left you. I lost my father almost 30 years ago and there are moments in time it feels as if it were forever ago. I forget his voice. I won’t remember the touch of his hand on the top of my head, even though the weight of that hand carries me through so many days.
Out of nowhere, his scent will arrest my breath.
“All your sorrows have been wasted on you if you have not yet learned how to be wretched,” — Seneca
We grieve many things, we humans. Not just the loss of life, but losing love, friendships, and the immortality of youth. We’re always searching for ways to get those things back, the intangible, the fleeting. If only we did this, if only we said that.
If only, if only.
Grief has a funny way of morphing our memories. Bending them to our will, even creating false contentment surrounding past events. We try not to speak ill of the dead. Love finds us doing the same, ignoring red flags and well-intentioned advice.
Rose-colored glasses never go out of style.
Our whole bodies are engaged when we grieve and love. These are physical entities that take up residence in every part of our beings, not just our minds. We feel so deeply, our bodies ache with longing, our tummies clench with pain, our teeth clench with want. Grief and love are so alike, their physical manifestations often mimic one another.
We must give ourselves over to the freight train of emotions as part of the human condition, love and grief alike. Stand tall and brace ourselves, but realize, they can hit us from nowhere and everywhere when we least expect. You’re never fully prepared for either, no matter who you are. As Elizabeth Gilbert beautifully stated when asked how she was faring after losing her love,
“The only way that I can “handle” Grief, then, is the same way that I “handle” Love — by not “handling” it. By bowing down before its power, in complete humility.”--Elizabeth Gilbert
Humans have difficulty with humility. But it is one of the key ingredients in love, relationships, and especially grief. You’ll never be more humble before your fellow man than when you’re in the throes of loss. Never will you be laid more bare. There’s no room for pride, self, or vanity.
Much like love.
Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us to feel privilege in our grief. We are lucky to have known people who touched our lives in such a way that we mourn them so deeply when they are gone. Our memories may be tinged with a hint of rose, but we have them. Though they leave me breathless on darker days, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.