{the first time I met grief}

The first time I met grief, I didn’t know what to do with him. He showed up at my door like a child dressed up as the grim reaper. He looked just as scared as I was. We stared at each other and I tried to close the door, but he showed up by my bed and in my car and on all the songs on the radio. Soon, I started setting a place for him at my table and getting used to him showing up unannounced.
Soon, he started to feel kind of familiar. Some nights, I almost felt disappointed when he didn’t show up to keep me company. I’d leave red date invitations circled on the calendar, but sometimes grief showed up the next morning. He doesn’t ever follow my rules. Grief does exactly what he wants, when he wants to.
This is my friend, grief.
He is here to stay,
but I’m learning that life can still be really happy with him here.
The next time I met grief, he looked like a box of darkness on the middle of a beach. He was so out of place. I almost felt bad for him. It was the happiest time in my life, and here was this weird box of darkness that didn’t belong in the background of my pictures.
But when I walked up to move it out of my way, the box opened and the whole entire world around me went dark.
I was standing with my toes in the sand in the middle of the most beautiful place in the world, but all I felt was a debilitating, empty, darkness.
And this, I am learning, is grief’s truest form.
In this moment, I convinced myself there wasn’t any way anyone could possibly know how I am feeling. This, I’ve learned, is grief’s middle name.
So I walked along the beach, just me and my darkness, and I avoided everyone’s eyes and I made sure to hide any attempt at a smile, and I just let myself walk alone and suffer alone, just me and my grief.
Just me and my grief.
But when grief showed up again, it looked a lot like a tornado swirling in the eyes of my best friend.
I wanted to look away.
I wanted to take every bit of blue from her tears and paint them into stars in the sky just to make some of the darkness go away.
I wanted to fill the holes in her heart with red confetti “I’m so sorry’s” and pink frosting “it will get betters” but I didn’t.
I couldn’t.
I couldn’t even try to fill the holes. Because I knew that sometimes the cracks and the holes and the brokenness are the only way the light can find its way back in.
So I held her. I sat with her. I told her I was not afraid to be in the dark.
I told her I would wait with her until the light came back.
Because it always does.
But even when the light comes back, and the world spins on, and people smile in the grocery store on aisle 8, I know that the grief will return. I know that there will be smiling and happiness and I know that there will be moments it feels like we can’t breathe. I know there will be memories and adventure, and I know there will be trips down the rabbit hole simply because it’s Wednesday afternoon.
So I open the door when grief shows up. I hold people a little tighter when I see the glimmers of grief reflecting in their eyes. I feel thankful to be able to understand even just a thread of what they’re feeling when covered in their blanket of blue.
And this is life.
Loving each other through the darkness and rejoicing with one another in the light. Praising the sun but only after knowing how it truly feels to lie in the gutter in the pouring, freezing rain. Showing up when it would be easier to walk away. Opening the door when it would be so much easier to leave it shut.
Grief is a storm; the biggest storm we will ever experience. It happens on the most beautiful beaches, on the couch at our mom’s house, in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, and it happens to everyone we love, no matter how hard we try to protect them from it.
Grief just is.
So, I’ve stopped trying to protect my world from the grief. I’ve stopped trying to pretend it isn’t there. I let it inside my house and my heart when it comes, and I take a few steps forward when it doesn’t. I stop trying to name the waves and and just let them crash, crash, crash.
I stop trying to predict when it will end or begin and I invite people to walk alongside me on the beach, no matter what the weather decides to do. There is a brilliance that only the ocean knows how to bring.
There is so much beauty in the waves, and so much glory in the stillness.
I have found peace in learning how to be still even when the waves are crashing harder than they ever have before.
This stillness is there even when grief is standing beside me holding my hand.
And even when the waves crash, this stillness helps me stop to pause
and remember just how much
I have always loved
to swim.

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