The Grief Gets to You

A quick word before we get to the actual post. I’m feeling the need to say straight off that I wrote the majority of this a week ago. It was very cathartic to do so, and I’m quite proud of it. All that being said, I am okay.

My husband and I got married two and a half years ago. We’ve been together a little over four years now. I am his second wife; he is my first husband. So, I got married pretty late in life, relatively speaking. These are the close family members who will never meet this wonderful man:

  • All four grandparents
  • All three uncles (one maternal, one maternal by marriage, one paternal by marriage)
  • Three of four aunts (one paternal, two maternal by marriage—my maternal uncle married twice)
  • My great-aunt
  • My father
  • A paternal first cousin once removed

There are others, of course. My maternal grandmother’s first husband (my biological grandfather) died before I was born. My paternal grandfather was one of six, but I really didn’t know most of his family.

Some, like my paternal grandmother and my maternal uncle, died when I was very young. My maternal uncle by marriage and my cousin were relatively recent losses. However, of the thirteen people listed above, nine of them died between December of 1999 and fall 2007.  

When my paternal grandfather and uncle both died in December of 1999 (a scant week from each other), I was 25. My grandfather’s funeral was ominously held on January 1st, 2000. My great-aunt ended the near-decade-long streak in 2007/8 (the details have gotten fuzzy), when I was 33/34.  

I was young, and for most of that time I was working at at a local scholastic publishing company. By the time my great-aunt passed in late 2007 or so, I was in a new, toxic job. I knew within the first week that I’d made a mistake taking it, but it was another two years before I realized I didn’t need a job change, but a life change.

After experiencing so much death, you lose patience with the games people play to keep their status quo. You know, better than many, what a waste of precious time that is.

When you spend an entire decade of your life mourning the loss of so many people, you become numb to it. After a certain point, you just can’t do it anymore. You’re so sick of feeling sad and empty that you move on because you can’t not. You give off this air of not caring, but it’s the opposite. You’ve simply given it all away; there’s nothing left. 

You move on, the hurt lessens. You get on with your life. If you’re lucky, you get a reprieve. People stop dying for a while. You can let yourself start to feel again. You can finally start to deal with everything. You can make peace with it. 

But grief can still sneak up on you when you least expect it. I cannot go to my father’s grave without breaking down like he died yesterday. I can’t really even think about it too much. 

Grief never goes away; you just learn how to live around it.

And sometimes, it gets the best of you. You are overwhelmingly sad and you don’t know why. Other people’s problems seem so fucking petty and trivial. You wonder why people can’t see the pain you’re in, and for once offer to take care of you instead of the other way around.

Grief isn’t gentle. It’s ugly and destructive and raw. You store it away because people stop being understanding after a few weeks. Your pain becomes too much for them, so they’d rather you not be sad, if you please. 

So, you create your own pearl. It gleams with a beauty that hides the irritant buried deep within. No one sees the hurt, because the shine of pretend joviality is too bright. Your grief is no longer a problem for anyone else, who would prefer to not be reminded that this, too, could happen to them.

But sometimes? It’s just too. fucking. much.

Grief takes as long as it takes, and sometimes the only thing you can do is hermit up and sit with it. Or just pretend for a little while that you’re not heartbroken just so you can get a break from the pain. 

Grief changes you. It never really leaves you. It becomes your constant gray friend, always tagging along. Denying its presence only makes things worse; best invite it in, have tea with it, and learn how to live with this strange new companion. It will show you a depth of life you never noticed before. 

From top left: My mom; me; my cousin Chris with her stepdaughter Lynn and son Ben; my aunt Bobbie and her husband Mike (d); Chris’s son Max and her mom Patty (d). In the teal, my grandmother (d); my grandfather in the red plaid (d); my brother; my father (d); and my cousin Rachael. My great aunt Beetee (d) took the photo.

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