A memory washed over me today. I remembered a family gathering a few years ago. One of my cousins slid in beside me where I was sitting on the steps of a deck. She was sobbing. "What's happening for you right now?" I asked, a bit surprised by her sudden emotion.
"I just looked over at everyone together and I thought, 'Dad should be here,'" she said. "He should be here and he isn't." Her Dad had died 10 years previous.
In our society we tend to focus on the TIME that has passed since someone died, instead of the experiences that have passed. Time is irrelevant when it comes to matters of the heart. It doesn't matter how long it has been. What matters is what your heart has or hasn't had to encounter and feel.
There was something in that moment with my cousin - a specific mixture of memory and circumstance that made her miss her Dad. Maybe it was the summer breeze, maybe it was the people who were there, or the reminiscing of old times that was happening. Whatever it was, that moment made her encounter her loss in a new and unexpected way.
I remember my Dad at that same family gathering alive and sort-of well. I remember seeing him socializing and laughing with his oxygen tank in a backpack on his back. My Dad died in November 2019. I missed our big family Christmas party that year, and then Covid hit. I'm anticipating the next family gathering will bring up raw and new grief because I haven't had to navigate that familiar group of people without him yet.
The isolation and physical/social distancing that we've all been facing due to Covid has insulated us against many of the social encounters and functions that would normally and understandably cause a natural wave of grief. We've become "out of practice" of encountering grief in this way.
It's not only large family parties. It's little things. It's Sunday family dinners. Going to our family cabin and spending a weekend there. Favorite restaurants, and enjoyed activities. It's seeing my parent's friend group together, and my mom on her own. It's even more that I'm not expecting to be sure.
What is it for you? What hasn't happened yet that you anticipate will be hard?
Here are a few tips for navigating re-opening while grieving...
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