If we love, we will grieve.
What a sad proclamation for love. An obvious truth that many of us deliberately ignore to prevent sudden onset panic attacks. All of our relationships will end, and for many of us, we will grieve those losses. So if we all love - and we all grieve - where are all the grievers?
Believe it or not - they're out there. They're just really good at hiding. Illustration credit to Mari Andrew.
Despite the universality of the grief experience, there are few things that make us as uncomfortable and squirmy as grief. I began my relationship with grief relatively early when my dad died while I was in college. I also lost my sister last summer. Even though I have some pretty intimate experiences with death, I am still squirmish and awkward when it comes to grief. I blame part of this on my awkward nature, but also on the fact that grief, and supporting those who are grieving, is uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable because we don't talk about it. We don't talk about it partly because it's sad (who wants to be sad?!) and also because it's feeling/experience that can't be fixed.
Grievers don't talk about it because it's hard to tell people how you're really doing, or you don't want to burden anyone with your problems, or you think that how you're feeling/behaving is unreasonable, or (fill in the blank). Supporters don't talk about it because they don't know what to say, how to help, and perhaps a small part of them is worried it might be contagious (kidding...sort of).
Because of barriers to honest communication about grief and hardship, I really crave any outlet that promises the potential for authentic connection . You don't experience these types of conversations often, but when you do, it can be a stop-you-in-your-tracks experience. This past August, in the days following my sister's death, I found myself listening to the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking into the early hours of the morning. I couldn't get enough. The host, Nora McInerny, is honest and funny with a Midwesterner's approachability (perhaps as a native New Yorker I am always surprised and appreciative of the kindness of our land-locked neighbors). Her podcast is perfect for both people who are suffering, and those who want to know more about the real human experience.
Nora speaks of her husband and father's deaths and her miscarriage (all of which happened within 6 weeks of each other) with an incredible openness. The guests on her show share their own stories with a similar level of authenticity. This is really good listening for anyone - whether you're grieving, worry about grieving, or know someone who's grieving and want to learn more. Guests talk about other difficult life experiences like losing jobs, postpartum depression, a traumatic brain injury, deportation, and sexual assault.
I love this podcast because it's a helpful reminder to anyone who feels isolated in their grief or hardship that you are not alone - there are so many people out there who are hurting. No two experiences are the same, no one is hurting exactly like you, but it is comforting to know that others are living with pain.
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