Good grief. Is it possible that there is such a thing? I’m certainly not thinking about the type of grief that we experience after a tragedy or horrific event. No. That type of grief isn’t a choice and it certainly isn’t ‘good’. It engulfs us like a monsoon, seemingly relentless and colouring everything with grey. Nobody wants to experience it, yet we know, that as long as life is filled with love, togetherness, joy, it will always have to house their counterparts; brokenness, loss, and sorrow. Eventually, over time the terrifying storm dies down, and we begin to see beauty again. Slowly, but surely.
I read once: As long as there is life, there is hope. As long as there is hope, there is life.
However, I am not thinking about that type of grief. That type of grief I can understand; it makes sense to me. There is great pain in great loss. However, I am thinking about grieving the small things in life. The small hurts and pains that happen to all of us every day. Losing ones job, failing a test, not landing a role (particular to performers), a nasty encounter with a co-worker, getting older and not being able to fulfill a lifelong dream, living with chronic pain… the list of life’s woes is endless! Feeling uplifted, yet?
Perhaps you are someone who DOES process these small but painful difficulties; you allow yourself to be emotional about your experiences which helps you to move more quickly towards acceptance and more importantly, move ON. I have always secretly admired these people. It doesn’t seem to matter what it is that they are feeling: loss, anger, resentment, envy, frustration, sadness. They don’t label the emotion as good or bad; acceptable or not acceptable. There is an ‘owning’ or an honesty about their situation. And although it may be uncomfortable to be around them at times, I can’t help but long for that type of freedom and understanding of my emotions.Back to grief. Good grief. Recently I was asked by a friend, about a certain difficult experience I had. I have spoken about it before to other close friends. I tried to move on with my life, and for the most part, I have. Except, in that split second, just before I began to speak, the dreaded ‘lump’ formed in my throat, and I began to choke on my emotion. Come on, Lalainia! Surely you’ve moved on from this! However, if I had moved on, then why was there a stabbing grief that pounded from deep inside me wanting to be let out? A tear surreptitiously seeped into the corner of my eye and slid out before it could be caught. Embarrassed, I apologised and said: “Sorry! I’m not really sure where that’s coming from.”
To be perfectly honest, I was genuinely surprised by the emotion that flooded through my body. I’m usually adept at maintaining my composure and ‘rising above it all’. So when this pang of pain pushed to the surface, I wasn’t pleased. Luckily, my attentive and sensitive friend didn’t shrug it off and try to change the subject, she just sat quietly for a bit and eventually offered, “Maybe you haven’t really grieved yet?” I sort of nodded, gathered up what was left of my limping pride and changed the subject. But that comment she made about grieving really gnawed at me.
What does grieving something, an experience, a period of time, an outcome, really mean? It sounded awfully indulgent! Almost instantaneously my inner critic quickly quiped “Come on! Just get over it!” or one of my personal favourites, “Suck it up, Princess!”. But if there is one thing that I have learned about myself this year, it’s that as soon as my inner peanut gallery starts to fling insults, I’m onto something. Upon further reflection, I realize that although there are some difficult experiences that I have truly processed and moved on from, a lot of my emotional experiences I tend to categorize BEFORE I allow myself to ‘feel’ them. There three basic categories: good, bad or unnecessary. Is it joy? File it under ‘good’. Is it anger? File it under ‘bad’. Is it sadness? Toss it into ‘unnecessary’. Is it love? Good. Longing? Bad. Confusion? Unnecessary.
If a lot of who we are, how we live, is through our emotions and I have spent a solid chunk of my adult life trying to toss out my ‘bad’ and ‘unnecessary’ emotions, I’ve really only partly been living. Our emotions act as conduits, clues, and sometimes beacons that can help lead us through our lives. If we learn to deny, mistrust, or hate our emotions, they don’t disappear, they actually accumulate! THIS is where I believe my friends comment fits perfectly: How do we make sure we aren’t stockpiling or hoarding the ‘ugly’ or ‘difficult’ emotions only to eventually lay pinned under the sheer weight of them? We grieve. This is the ‘good’ grief that I’ve been looking for. This is the type of grief we find poured onto the pages of the Psalms, the grief that is carried through cries and broken prayers; grief being shared over telephone lines to loved ones across the world; grief being worked through in late night car conversations between friends; grief that sticks itself onto the journal pages of the introvert, or the grief that is heard in the rantings of an extrovert.
Hmm. Good grief… I guess we’re all a little like Charlie Brown after all.
Becoming Ordinary: Day 111