So I was talking with a friend of mine this morning about how grief isn't linear in the way we understand time. It's not like the loss hurts, then hurts less, then less, then doesn't hurt and we're all better THE END. People think it goes like that, and yeah, after time the pain might not stab you in the face as hard every day, but it's still just as strong, it just looks different, so we don't recognize it the same way. Like at first, you eat a donut and you burst into tears because OMG THEY USED TO EAT DONUTS TOO!!! And you cry, and it hits you in waves every time you do something you used to do with that person, and now you have to do it alone. But after time, instead of the horrible pain, you'll feel a smile come to your face because you'll be eating a donut and you'll remember that time you ate donuts and got sprinkles stuck to your nose and you laughed and all that love you felt for that person will be in your heart, and it didn't go anywhere, it's just as strong, but it's different, because now instead of just being sad the person isn't there, you're grateful they were there at all. Because that's the thing, grief isn't just pain, it's LOVE, and the love is still there, and sometimes it hurts like hell because you miss what's gone, and sometimes it makes you smile because you realize how lucky you are that you got to experience that love.
So I'm saying all this, or trying to say it, and I'm trying to give examples of things you might do that someday may bring a smile to your face, because they remind you of that person and that love, and those things are important to you, even if you don't always remember WHY, because those things remind you of that person and that love.
And I stopped short, one hand in my hair unraveling my braid, and stood there like I'd just run into a wall, because I was remembering those small things I do in my life that bring me comfort, even if they look weird to other people because they don't understand, like watching horror movies to comfort myself when I'm sad, or always standing in my tiny kitchen when I'm drinking with friends, even if it's the smallest room in my house...and then, in mid-sentence, I realized for the first time WHY I always stand in the kitchen when I'm drinking with friends, and it never occurred to me until just now, and I said "Oh my God" out loud.
Back in 2008, I had friends over to my apartment which was still relatively new to me back then, and we were hanging out, and one of the guys kept picking on my friend Mike, saying "dude, you're so gay," because that's like, the worst insult ever, dude. So Mike got up and walked into the kitchen and I got tired of the rowdy bunch so I went into the kitchen to check on Mike, and he was standing in the corner by the fridge, chugging vodka from the bottle, and I asked if he was ok, and he looked at me with haunted eyes and asked "how does he know? How does he know I'm gay?"
And we stood there for awhile, passing the bottle back and forth, and I had no wise words of advice, because I was still struggling with my demons, too. But we stood there together drinking, and we felt less alone. Michael killed himself later in that year, and I tell this story sometimes because he was my friend and I loved him, and it's an important memory to me, but I swear to God, I never even thought about why I always stand in the kitchen and drink when I'm drinking with friends, but that's why. Because it reminds me of friendship and how I'm not alone.
It amuses me to no end that I would stop dead in the middle of a story about how we live with grief because I was shocked to finally realize one of the ways I deal with grief that I never understood until now. I enjoy being my own object lesson, thank you very much. But this hits home for me even more now, because it's Easter, and the Easter story has always resonated with me because of the way people handled the grief over Jesus's death.
Sometimes it seems like we read these stories of people weeping at the tomb and we think how silly they are, they didn't understand Jesus's message, they didn't "get it." But all I see are sad people missing their friend. In the book of John chapter 20, Mary goes to the tomb to get Jesus's body, because that's what you did back then when someone died, and she's shocked to see the stone rolled away from the tomb and see that it's empty, and she doesn't know where Jesus is. In verse 11, she's standing there weeping, because Jesus is gone and now these things you do when someone dies, these tangible things that help you remember the person who is gone, she can't do them because the body is gone, and her heart is breaking all over again.
In verse 13, angels appear and ask her why she's crying, and my heart is ripped out when she says "they have taken my lord away, and I don't know where they have put him." Then Jesus himself appears, but she doesn't recognize him, and she is desperate, so she begs "sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where he us, and I will get him," and my heart gets stomped even harder. Then Jesus reveals who he is, and she is overjoyed, and she runs to tell the good news, and that is beautiful and amazing, but the older I get the more I appreciate that sorrow that came before the joy. That fear that all was lost. Those small tangible things Mary was going to do to take joy in Jesus and remember him.
That's how grief is to me. In the beginning, it's the small, tangible things we can do that help us remember the person we lost. And it's sorrow, and weeping, and pain. Then over time, the small, tangible things might make us smile, or bring warmth to our hearts, and we might not even realize why. Like me standing in the kitchen to drink with friends. It just feels RIGHT, and I can't always explain why. It's because those people we love, they are never really gone, because their memory and their love remains, and there are pieces of that love in every place they went, and that love brings us comfort and joy. That's the good news that Jesus shared. That all is not lost, it's not hopeless, it not over. Death has been overcome. We can have joy, but the weeping has to come before the joy. Because that weeping is one of the ways we show how much we love the people we've lost. Someday the mourning might turn to dancing and the tears might turn to a smile, but the love is always there.
I want to close with this, because I've loved this song ever since before I could talk, and I think a part of me knew even back then that this was a really DEEP THOUGHT for a children's movie, but "The Last Unicorn" sums it up this way:
🎶When the first breath of winter
Through the flowers is icing
And a pale moon is rising
And it seems like all is dying
And would leave the world to mourn
In the distance hear her laughter
Of the Last Unicorn
I'm alive, I'm alive🎶
It may feel like all is dying, and will leave the world to mourn, but grief is still love, and hope is still alive. And the dawn is coming.