Grief is a Messy Ride
I returned to work after a trip to southern Missouri where the rocky, rolling Ozark hills contain my family’s land. Being there always stirs warm memories of my dad. He was a constant putzer. He didn't move too quickly in his overalls, but he was always working on the garden, planting a tree, tending the hogs (named “Ham,” “Bacon,” “Babe” and “Wilbur”), mending the chicken coop or sorting the latest-and-greatest auction finds.
Later, as I recalled these fond images, tears created pathways down my cheeks. A co-worker asked what was going on and I recounted the memories, missing my dad. In a mood that implied she didn't think he died too long ago, my friend asked when he had passed. I replied, "Over fifteen years ago."
Grieving is tough to grasp for the rational-minded person. Shoot, it's tough for anyone to get grief and move through it. Grieving as a couple over an affair can’t be planned out, but it must happen. At first, grief feels like a constant unwelcome guest; later grief becomes a darting sprite here and gone in unexpected moments.
Given that, we want to share a few common aspects of grief, though no two journeys through grief are the same.
Unpredictable and random, grief knows no master. Those who think they have it mastered will discover physical problems like ulcers and other indicators like anxiety or irritability. Grief comes when it comes. Hurt crashes in at unpredictable times. It caught Ben off guard the first wedding we attended after the revelation. Four years had passed. We had healed and healed and healed some more. But when Ben heard the vows at this wedding, the promises of dedication and fidelity, an invisible sword sliced into his soul reminding him of our infidelities.
Along with being unpredictable, grief can be a messy and out-of-control adventure. It arrives like an uninvited dinner guest, unpredictable in timing and intensity. Grief might hit you when walking through the household department at Target, shopping for a basic necessity. It slams you with a painful reminder (maybe triggered by the laundry detergent used in earlier, happier times) causing tears and snot to fly in aisle six. Grief is humbling in its messiness.
Along with this, grief is disruptive. A new normal is being formed, and grief makes sure normal doesn't become normal too soon. Crying during a basketball game, or being struck dumb because you just walked by a person wearing your affair partner’s cologne or perfume and you hadn't thought of him or her in a while - seemingly, grief throws you backward unexpectedly. In reality, we underestimate the amount of pain that sorrow requires.
Grief doesn’t follow a direct route. It's a two-lane highway on a crooked, winding ridge. Three-easy-steps grief plans don't take into account road construction, accidents, vehicle malfunctions and snowstorms like the ones in Colorado where highways are shut down. Grief winds and turns daily, but rarely are there dangerous curves ahead signs.
Grief also lasts longer than expected. We encourage you to reflect and see if you have been grieving together. Losses need to be faced. Perhaps that's today or maybe it will be years down the road like me grieving my dad.
What has unexpectedly brought tears to your eyes?
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