Fearing Grief

I had an interesting moment while I was writing a Facebook post the other day.

I re-posted a story about a journalist in Gaza whose 11 month old precious baby was killed in a wildly inaccurate targeted shooting. I will link to it at the bottom of the page because, although it is completely heart-breaking, we need to let our hearts be broken by some things.

This is what I commented on the link. “This is really hard. And I cannot ignore it. I’m writing some letters today, praying, and holding this beautiful family in my heart. We don’t have to fear grief.” 

Every once in a while I write something that goes off in my head like a 9 year old at a door bell. This is partly why I love writing. If I didn’t, I truly would be completely without self awareness. There are just too many nervous chipmunks chattering in my head, arguing about nuts and hibernation and cats most of the time.

It’s the last sentence I had to stop and stare at. We don’t have to fear grief. 

“Wow,” I thought, “That’s cool. Wonder if it’s true. It’d be cool if it were.”

I don’t know yet.

My life has had some stressors of late, I admit it. (Whose doesn’t?) And grief is one of the emotions I am paying attention to. But I realized when that seemingly wise thought flew up out of my psyche and stared me in the face that I am freaking terrified of grief. It may be because I woke up one day in the late 90’s and couldn’t get out of bed from an unexpected post-partum depression. Those were the good old days!

It would have been nice to have a warning. Well, other than being unable to sleep, losing 25 pounds, and looking like something the cat drug in. I didn’t even know I was depressed! HAH! Talk about unselfawareness! It took my sister sitting in the Dr.’s office with me saying, “gee, she doesn’t have cancer, there’s no brain tumor, she’s had every unpleasant test related to GI issues on the planet, and everything is clean… maybe, just maybe …  you’re depressed!” I laughed inside. Surely not me! I felt fine.

The road out of that grief was intense and long. It was more like an overgrown trail you carry a scythe to whack through than a nice tidy road, really. Especially when you start at “I feel fine.” I am not interested in going back there. Ever. Free floating anxiety and panic attacks while trying to care for 2 babes, a crabby husband, and managing an apartment building in which one of the streets was frequented by cranes and 2 story piling drillers which were to become home to a new septic system = most unpleasant. God bless my community who jumped right in nurturing and enjoying my children, fattening me up with cookies, and walking with me. They surely saved my children a couple of years of therapy. (Not that there still aren’t a few more years in the hopper for them.)

I think I have felt sometimes that grieving deeply can dissolve into a pillar of salt. Like Lot’s wife.

You know that much-maligned Bible story about the unnamed “wife” who turned around to watch Sodom and Gomorrah burning from God’s smiting and immediately turned into a pillar of salt? That’ll teach her!

Weird stuff. As a child I always imagined her a perfectly formed salt-woman frozen for a few dramatic moments while the cameras panned the fiery scene and then just like that: the pillar cracks and she dissolves into a dry sand puddle. A salty anthill.

That is what I fear about grief. That I will somehow dissolve into a dry puddle and wash away with the first rain.

Forgodssake! What is the likelihood of that? I didn’t disappear when things were at their toughest. I made it through the fires of alcoholism in my family. I had two unmedicated childbirths. So far so good!

I don’t know if you fear grief. Maybe you should. But I think I can let grief just be grief and not pile another scurry of chipmunks on it. I’ll let you know if it works out.


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One Response to Fearing Grief

  1. Shannon, beautifully written as usual. I’ve shared it with my daughter Helen (grad school, aspriring young writer herself) and your thoughts on writing will hit home with her. She’s lately been distracted by a cat outside her basement apartment window. She blogged about it. I thought it was hilarious, but I’m her mother.
    Anyway, we are much tougher than we think and we do endure and get through stuff. My mantra these past couple of years (as I think I’m actually beginning to really come into myself – about time too, I’m 50!!!), has been to not be afraid of my tears. It’s been tremendously freeing to just let the tears roll, especially around Ken and my precious girls.

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