Don’t Mind Me And My Box…….

There is poignancy in grief.

Well duh, Captain Obvious. My work here is done!

Back on track…………………..The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines as poignant:
*painfully affecting the feelings
*piercing, cutting
Grief. It’s expanding my working vocabulary if nothing else. It certainly isn’t helping my ability to express myself coherently.

I can’t pretend to comprehend all the layers of grief, as I suspect it’s a never-ending story, and while being the singular most intense process I’ve ever gone through, I can say without equivocation that its lessons also seem to be without measure.

A few weeks ago, sometime during the Christmas season, I read something by a friend of mine who has lost both parents. She was talking about how she was going through a box of one of her parents’ mementos and how overwhelming it was for her, still, after what had been a very long time since they both had passed, and she decided right then and there that maybe she wouldn’t be opening that box of memories again for a very long time as it was just too much for her. A couple of things struck me about her experience. First, it doesn’t matter one bit how long it’s been since someone’s been gone, feelings of grief can take you right back to that overwhelming sense of loss and no amount of reason or positive thoughts can whitewash it into something less cripplingly painful.

The other thing that struck me was her thought of just letting that box sit. She had opened it enough times and her wounds were still raw, her pain still too much to be able to move forward in a positive way. She was giving herself permission to just let that box sit unopened, maybe for the rest of her life. It doesn’t make her a less devoted daughter, or a less of the great person she is, it was just time for her to let the box remained closed for now, maybe forever.

Can we all just agree that it’s okay to not open the box of mementos for umpteenth time? It doesn’t mean we love(d) the person any less, it doesn’t mean we’re in denial about their place in our lives or about the hole the loss of them makes in our lives, it just means we can’t anymore. We can’t go back to that fetal position that the tsunami of pain leaves us in. Some would say I live in a giant box of grief as we live in my dad’s house, a house we once shared with him, as we work full time to move the faith based non-profit that he started (and that were once just an ancillary part of) forward, with gusto. My gusto has definitely been waxing and waning. Some might suggest that living in that giant box of grief might be asking too much of myself; too many reminders, too much pain, too much emptiness in the deepest recesses of my soul, my very being of who I am. I think through the wonderful powers of denial (I have a post doctorate degree in it) living there gives me solace, comfort, peace and even strength so I can move forward, even if on some days it’s only inches.  I feel anchored. He had wanted us to move back home years ago, but we just couldn’t figure out the logistics. Twinges, no bludgeoning pains of regret and “I wish we could-haves”.

Like any self respecting driven, high energy Type A personality type, I’ve tried to do this grief thing very well (I mean we are being graded, right?). And then I’m completely bipolar about it, and I flip to not caring at all how broken I appear or how completely useless to anyone else on any given day I am because of all this. I answer to no one and I don’t care what any body thinks. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I think one of the over-arching principles in the confounding process that is grief is that it is not a linear process by any stretch. It’s a big giant circle, kind of like a Ferris wheel. A Ferris wheel on crack whirling through the universe at twice the speed of sound. With seats held down by broken bolts and no safety bars. In the middle of an epic thunderstorm. And while on this ride from the pits of hell you’re supposed to parent your children, pay the bills, and somehow be a member of polite society. How good we become at appearing to be perky and positive all the while struggling in the early morning hours for a reason to get out of bed, over-thinking every single aspect of our lives and second guessing every decision we’ve ever made. And then there are days where I am genuinely positive, I am okay and I am optimistic. I’m accepting life on life’s terms and I understand that my current situation is but a fleeting moment and I have much to be thankful for. I try to stay in that space.

My “box of grief” is actually many things; it’s his wallet that I have buried and hidden somewhere in the house that only I know about. I can barely look at it, but heaven forbid I should move it. It has to stay where it is, like some sort of touchstone, waiting for me when I can bear to be in its presence. While we run the organization from his desk, 95% of its contents remain his, a million little reminders of his way of doing things, his left-handed ness, his various “systems” that worked for him. His pocket address/calendar books that he’s kept for as long as I can remember are all filled with people and memories from my childhood; notes about my upcoming soccer games and band recitals, the week every summer he crossed out when we would go to family camp with our church, all of that security and comfort I’m not willing to part with yet (probably much to the consternation of my husband). It’s a box of grief I interact with everyday but yet somehow manage not to fall into the murky depths of its pain on most days. Maybe I’m getting accustomed to treading its waters without letting myself sink.

I guess my point in all this is that at some time or another we’re all going to have a box of grief. We’re probably going to have to face losing our “person”, whoever that may be. We’re not getting off this giant ball of matter hurtling through space without experiencing some level of loss. Your box of grief can bring you perspective, amazing and funny memories, feelings of gratefulness that you were in a relationship with that person (be it a friendship, a marriage, a sibling relationship, or a parent/child relationship), and true joy knowing that you’re a better person for having known your person. It’s your box, it’s there to bring a smile to your face, but it can sometimes be overwhelming,  and maybe, for your sanity’s sake it’s perfectly okay to leave that box unopened if leaving it sealed helps you live the life you have left. It will be there when you’re ready for it.

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