Two months ago, I lost one of my best friends to cancer. His decline was quick and unexpected as we were told the day before he died that treatments would begin the next day and had a high percentage of success. He was a professor and choral director. The students who he taught have been processing the death ever since, mostly on Facebook. We used FB to organize choirs for his service and a college concert that turned into a tribute to him. They also post (at all hours of the day and night) how they are feeling, how they miss him, how he changed their lives. The replies from each other are all so supportive and loving. The community is strong and I know that the grief work being done there is effective and useful. But, it is so not for me. I have posted very little about him after the immediate reaction to his death.
It is interesting to me to see how some people process their grief (and other emotions) on Facebook and other media. That is usually not my way. But, hell, I guess that is what I am doing right now – albeit with a much more small scale of readers (Bueller? Bueller?). But, it does help to write it down. Sometimes I scribble in a notebook. Sometimes I write on Penzu for myself. Sometimes, I decide to be more public and go here to good ole T-F.
Yesterday, on Facebook, a friend posted a link to Sheryl Sandberg’s recent post about end of her first 30 days mourning her husband’s death. It was an emotional, well-written piece of work. And, it struck a chord with me.
The similarities between her husband’s sudden death and the loss of my beloved almost 2 years ago are very strong. That, in and of itself, was enough to give me a strong emotional reaction to her pain. But, I also was reacting to her work after almost 24 months of grief and the processing and struggle that go with it.
From her post:
I have learned that resilience can be learned. Adam M. Grant taught me that three things are critical to resilience and that I can work on all three. Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word “sorry.” To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.
The middle “thing” she thinks is critical is the one I have had to focus on and the one that I have seen the most change for my life. Grief doesn’t leave. But, it does change. It does lighten. So, you don’t feel like you do after 30 days forever. Thank goodness because none of us would ever be able to function again.
But, she also says that doesn’t think she will find “pure joy” again. I have to disagree. Yes, you feel like that after 30 days. You feel like that after 1 year. You feel like that for a long, long time. But, slowly, VERY slowly, you will notice at some point that you are laughing, truly laughing and the oppressive grief didn’t come in and ruin it. You notice something delightful and are able to enjoy it for longer than a second before tears come.
Last night, I was able to go enjoy a spectacle of nature that only happens here in my neck of the woods.
I have seen them before. Yes, WE saw them before. And, last night, as the “show” was starting. I felt myself tearing up. Part of me wanted to cry. Part of me wanted to mourn the fact that I had shared this awesome site with the person I loved the most and now I could not. But, I didn’t go there. And, for once, I didn’t have to fight it to not go there.
I was with my family. They had not seen it before. And, so I went back in my mind to awe and joy. It is an amazing event. I found myself staring into the deep woods, enjoying the darkness, and then delighting in the light show and then celebrating that it just went back to dark for 6 seconds. Then it repeats. For several hours. The crowd that was milling around before it started quickly got quiet as the flickering began. There were whispers of conversations but everyone was really in awe, I believe, as we witnessed this amazing display of nature.
So, we all process our grief in different way and through different media. I am so very sorry for Sheryl’s loss. I have empathy for what she is going through and I feel like she has the support she needs to make the journey through her grief over time. I also know that she can find pure joy again. I hope it comes to her and anyone else who needs it sooner rather than later.