My first encounter with grief was when my brother’s dog died. I was five and I cried, and hugged my big brother.
My second encounter with grief was the day I was dropped off at boarding school for the first time. I stood surrounded by children as we watched our parents drive away from us. I cried. But my six-year-old self quickly understood from my peers that only babies cry. So I stifled the pain and brushed away the tears… and saved my grief for the darkness of bedtime when silent tears rolled past my temples and drenched my ears. And during the nine years I logged at boarding school between first and twelfth grade I learned to be strong, to be stoic, to even smile. But I always hated Drop-Off Days.
I lost my dear grandparents. All of them. And I cried.
We lost our beloved family dog Luna. And I cried.
and most recently I lost my marriage.
and I cried. And cried. and journaled. and avoided restaurants that held memories. and switched radio stations playing painful songs. and looked into faces of fellow shoppers and wondered if they could see the grief in my eyes. and carried a stone in my chest: my constant companion. and cried. and smiled sometimes. and got angry, so very angry. and journaled. and cried. and surrounded myself with authentic friendships whose compassion and support became my beacon. and wanted everything to go back to what it was — to what felt normal. and became so angry again. then cried. and laughed.
I’ve learned a lot about my grieving during these past five months. I’ve learned to let myself feel whatever it is I’m feeling.
To go easy on myself.
To be gentle with my heart while it heals.
To accept the emotions: the anger, the sadness, the impatience, the despair.
To stop and enjoy moments of beauty: a pastel sunset, a field of wildflowers, gentle waves caressing my toes.
I’ve learned the stone in my chest gets lighter.
I’ve learned it’s okay to speak about the pain.
I’ve learned to value laughter.
And to appreciate the power of a hug.
And I’ve learned that the darkness of bedtime is still a comforting time to cry.