I had a close friend of mine contact me a couple of weeks ago to tell me she was thinking about me, that she knew that this time of year was tough for me.
It happens every year. I’m cruising along making my way through summer and then September and October roll around and while I absolutely LOVE the Fall, there is an underlying melody of sadness that I pick up on. My soul hears it and I dismiss it because logically there’s nothing to be sad about. Everything is good but something has pricked my heart’s minor chord. Sometimes I think it’s because the Fall brings the close of summer with its fun and sun. Sometimes I think that maybe it’s the shortening of days, the cooler weather driving me indoors to artificial light and hibernation and I’m just not ready to give up summer.
It’s not until I am reminded in some way that I remember that my soul usually has a time of grieving in September and October. My mother died on September 30 when I was 3 years old and my sister died on October 4 when I was 33 years old.
I only had one counselor in my life tell me that no matter how old you are, or no matter if you remember it or not, that if a significant person in your life dies it affects you. She said babies, infants, toddlers are deeply affected by the death of a parent. And even though they may not remember the person or the death, they are deeply, emotionally, soul-ly affected.
So, when this time of year rolls around, even though I have no memory of my mother in my brain and I cannot remember the sound of my sister’s voice in my ear anymore, my soul remembers them. And it’s sad. It grieves.
I’m glad I get reminded. I’m glad I don’t walk around with this gloom and think something’s wrong with me.
Grief is not an illness, though it can make you sick if you let it. Grief is an emotion like joy. Emotions come and go. They flow. Just like water, it’s only when you stop it, that it stagnates and can make you ill. If you keep grief with you, make it your house, hold it, wear it, caress it, worship it, that’s when it becomes a problem.
To me, grief is an experience akin to being hit by a strong wind or a wave. The more I fight it to try to make it stop, the more difficult it becomes, the harder it is to bear and often I hurt myself in the fight. But if I let it wash over me and blow through me like wind or wave, the quicker it passes and the less injured I am from the experience.
I remember reading what C.S. Lewis said in “A Grief Observed”:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.”
I found his description to be very accurate in my experience. This quote really helped me.
After my sister died, I suffered from panic and anxiety attacks. I fought them, took medication for them, went to counseling. But now after many years, when I look back on it, I think I was just grieving. When my sister, who had become sort of a mother figure, died, I grieved double. The depth of my grief scared me. I didn’t know if I’d ever recover. Now I know we do, people do recover. It may not be exactly the way it was, we may not be exactly the same, but we do continue. And whether we are better or worse for the loss I think is largely dependent on us. It depends on what we want our life to be.
Some people stop in their grief and don’t want to fight to get better. It is a fight. It is a fight to recover. Sometimes you have to have help. But you can recover if you work hard and let go of what was.
Now, when this time of year rolls around or when someone I care about dies or when there are sad endings to loves, friendships or times and I feel that fear creep up on me. I try to relax and let it wash over me.
Then after a while, perhaps the sun comes out and you feel its warmth on your face or for some reason, the taste of a favorite food seems to lure you out from under your blanket of grief and you wade in the waters of life once more.
C’est la vie.