I lost my brother in-law a little less than 2 weeks ago. It’s been incredibly painful for everyone that knew him. I’ve had a hard time. I’ve learned a lot. I’m still learning a lot. It’s only been 11 days, I cannot profess to be the grief guru yet, but I did want to share something that I have realized and I think will remain a constant through throughout this process:
Grief is not something you get through.
Now, now. Don’t freak out on me here. Bear with me a moment, OK? When I am going through something, I am an obsessive researcher and reader and reacher-outer. So much I’ve read online is about ‘getting through grief’. Here’s what I say, “That’s Bullshit”. Grief is not something you get through. Grief is something you absorb. It is not a marathon or a Tough-Mudder. You will not power through it via endurance or brute strength. Grief is more like being held down and tattooed against your will. It sneaks up on you while you are just doing your thing, throws you in the back of a van with some huge scary dudes who proceed to tattoo something horrible and not of your choosing onto you. It is frightening and incredibly painful at first. It burns a lot. It’s violating and traumatizing. Then, the dudes let you out of the van with a couple of band-aids and some tubes of antibacterial cream. Huh. That was weird and horrible, right? Your new tattoo throbs and aches and oozes blood and clear stuff. But no matter how much you hate it, you must not let it get infected, at all costs. Put the cream on it. Keep it clean. Tend to it every day. Try very hard not to pick the scabs and crust that form over it. Oh, it itches so much. SO MUCH. It drives you crazy, this new, unwanted tattoo. You want to claw at it and rip it off and dig the newly healed spots. But you can’t. You mustn’t. You must keep putting that salve on it. Eventually, it starts to get better. I don’t know when yours will feel better. People heal at different rates. Someday you will be left with a completely healed, horrible tattoo you don’t want. You will look at it every day, but it won’t hurt anymore. You will be able to point to it and say, ‘Let me tell you how I got this really stupid tattoo I hate.” and you can tell the story.
And that is why you don’t get through grief. You just let it sink into your skin like ink, and you learn to live with it, and you will hate it, but it’s OK. It’s part of you now.